A move by Kenyan authorities to improve the country’s tourism numbers has resulted in a backlash. Kenya’s tourism sector has taken a nosedive following the spread of the COVID-19 and lockdown measures to contain the spread of the virus.
According to a report by Kenya’s Tourism Research Institute, tourists numbers have fallen by 72% between January and October last year. “The sector hence lost over 110bn Kenyan shillings [$1bn, £738m] of direct international tourists’ revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the report noted.
To reverse the downward spiral, Kenya’s Tourism and Wildlife Ministry appointed British supermodel Naomi Campbell to become an ambassador for the industry. The 50-year-old model has 10 million followers on Instagram and Kenya is seeking to leverage this mass to revive its tourism sector.
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“Supermodel Naomi Campbell has agreed to be Magical Kenya International Tourism Ambassador. She will help promote the marketing of Kenya as an ideal tourism and travel destination to the world,” a statement from the ministry read.
The agreement was reportedly reached over the weekend when the supermodel visited the East African nation. “We welcome the exciting news that Naomi Campbell will advocate for tourism and travel internationally for the magical Kenya brand,” said Najib Balala, the head of the ministry.
The appointment of Naomi Campbell has however caused an uproar that is playing out on social media. On Twitter, many Kenyans were outraged by the appointment of Campbell, saying there are Kenya celebrities who could be appointed to become ambassadors.
One Twitter user wrote: “Let’s address this because it’s clear it’s time for @tunajibu to retire..so Apparently Naomi Campbell is to become #Magicalkenya International Ambassador. #Kenya has International celebrities like Lupita, Debra Sanaipei, Christine Wawira, but he picked a Non Kenyan for this? How?”
Another user posted: “Ministry of Tourism taps Naomi Campbell, a tired model who has lost her mojo to be the Magical Kenya international Brand Ambassador and is to market Kenya as a tourism and travel destination. Why not @Lupita_Nyongo or one of our daughters of international repute? Lol”
“Lupita Nyong’o would have made a better Magical Kenya International Ambassador compared to Naomi Campbell. Well, It’s just what I think,” another Twitter user posted.
Many Twitter users did also express shock at the uproar that greeted the appointment of Campbell, particularly, comparing her with Kenyan model Lupita Nyongo.
“Look at Kenya’s International arrivals, the USA is first, contributing 12.9% followed closely by Italy with 12.0%. the UK comes in 3rd with a share of 9.5%, followed by Germany with 7.2%. Naomi Campbell appeals more to their citizens than Lupita Nyong’o does.”
“Kenyans should understand that these two top models Naomi Campbell and Lupita Nyongo pose and commands quite different niche markets when it comes to sponsor different entities,here the CS @tunajibu has something unique why he’s targeting Naomi Campbell and not otherwise!”