The proposed reduction of the Tourism ministry budget by Treasury will hurt the country’s tourism sector which is on a recovery path, CS Najib Balala has warned.

Treasury CS Henry Rotich in a mini budget tabled at the National Assembly in December 2016, has proposed a cut on the tourism promotion budget by Sh1.5 billion, as he seeks to reduce the government’s expenditure for the financial year 2016/17 by Sh181 billion.

Balala has however retaliated saying the reduction will hard hit structures set for recovery, which include marketing campaigns by the Kenya Tourism Board in the international markets.

“The proposed budget cuts will drastically affect the tourism industry but like most sectors affected, we have to go back to the drawing board and re-strategise in order to reverse the effects,” Balala said in an interview with the Star.

Rotich allocated Sh4.5 billion for tourism promotion activities in the current financial year which ends in June.

Also to be affected, Balala said the Sh1.2 billion charter incentive programme launched in December 2015.

“We will definitely need to review the allocation for the charter incentive programme,” Balala said.

The Treasury is seeking to cut development spending by Sh213.5 billion for the current financial year.

Balala said there is a need to open skies to low cost airlines in both Nairobi and Mombasa, as the charter incentive programme may have to be prolonged to 2018, owing to the budget cuts.

“Charter airlines which comprise two per cent of the airline business are not interested in coming into the country, we are however looking into bringing more low cost airlines having already talked to Emirates, Fly Dubai and Qatar among others,” said Balala.

Despite uncertainty in the sector as the country heads into this year’s general elections, the tourism sector is set to benefit from conferences and summits to be held in Nairobi.

They include the Modern Airports Africa Conference and the Power Tech Africa Conference slated for this month, the Aid and Development Africa Summit and the East Africa Islamic Economy Summit among others.

“In the last 17 years the country has stood as a democratic State. Let’s not always see 2007 as the base for the country’s image. The concentration this year is to change the image so that people looking to go on safari in Kenya have no fears,” Balala said.

Balala in January last year projected the sector will have fully recovered by 2018.

Visitor numbers and earnings have plunged in the last four years over insecurity, mainly caused by the al Shabaab