File photo shows a Chinese tourist taking a selfie at an Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 2, 2017. (Xinhua/Sun Ribo)
NAIROBI, April 30 (Xinhua) -- Kenya is receiving twice as many tourists from China as it used to some years ago as bilateral ties between the two nations soar.
At least 230,500 Chinese nationals visited Kenya and spend night in various hotels in different parts of the country in 2018, latest economic data released on Monday reveals.
The number is a significant surge from 192,300 in 2017 and 131,900 in 2016, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data indicates.
In 2014, Kenya received some 92,100 Chinese nationals who spend the night in the country, while in 2015, the number declined to 82,600.
China contributed the largest number of visitors coming to Kenya from Asia in 2018, with India producing 167,200, Japan 48,200 and Middle East 54,700.
One of the things that made the east African nation attract more Chinese nationals, besides the growing bilateral ties, include aggressive campaigns to woo more tourists from the Asian nation and other parts of the world.
The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) last year unveiled in Beijing a video campaign targeting the Chinese outbound tourists.
The video sought to create awareness on Kenya's tourism products and was hosted on Chinese popular social media sites WeChat, Weibo and Youku.
According to KTB chief executive Betty Radier, a majority of Chinese tourists have been visiting Kenya between July and September to see the wildebeest migration.
But Kenya is working to position the country as an all-year-round tourist destination, marketing its beaches and safari sites, among other products.
"A Chinese tourist has an adventurous spirit and is willing to pay for value for adventurous experiences. They want 'wow, exclusive' experiences in Kenya. These are the experiences Kenya is working to offer," Magical Kenya, a tourism marketing organization, says on its website in an analysis on Chinese tourists.
It adds that Kenya tour firms should consider providing marketing tools like brochures and catalogues written in Chinese to reach more audiences.
A number of Chinese restaurants and hotels have come up in Kenya over the years, providing tourists with 'home away from home' experiences.
"Initially, Kenyan firms were missing business because they could not comprehend how to tap the Chinese market. But currently we have seen Kenyans who have studied or lived in China return home and start restaurants that serve the Chinese, creating not only business for themselves but also for the country," said Ernest Manuyo, a lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi.
He noted that colleges and universities are teaching students Chinese language enabling companies like banks and hotels to have a workforce that can serve the growing Chinese clientele.
However, even as the number of Chinese tourists surge, there is need to invest in local guides who can speak Chinese language and understand the culture of the travellers, Sandra Rwese, a tourism marketing consultant, who have lived in China, said in a recent interview.
She noted that while traditional marketing strategies like holding exhibitions are paying off for Kenya, the country needs to adopt marketing methods that reach as many potential tourists as possible, which include use of social media.
Europe is the biggest source of tourists for Kenya, with 2.3 million nationals from the region spending the night in Kenya in 2018, followed by Africa at 505,500 and Americas at 460,000.