Kenya is launching a special tourism police unit to further boost renewed growth in tourism numbers.

Speaking at World Travel Market today, Kenya minister of tourism Najib Balala admitted safety is still an issue, with the recent murder of a British couple in Mombasa and ongoing Somali piracy on Africa’s Indian Ocean coast raising concern.

However, he said the creation of a special tourism police unit would help combat fears over visitors’ safety. Tourism police should be visible within six months.

Meanwhile, Balala stressed that UK tourists are returning to the country, with UK business now at 80% of the record-breaking levels of 2007.

The violence that followed last year’s presidential elections saw the number of UK visitors dip below 100,000 throughout 2008. From January to September 2009, a total of 122,337 Britons visited Kenya.

Keen pricing on the ground, a high-profile media campaign and a slash in visa costs have been named as key factors in the recovery.

Balala pledged that visa discounts would continue indefinitely. Spending on tourism marketing is also double what it was before the post-election violence, at €10 million.

Priorities for 2010 include the promotion of Kenya’s less well-known attractions.

Balala said: “Our safari product is unique even within Africa, with the mix of habitats and the great diversity of wildlife we offer, but there is more to us than the Masai Mara.”

The tourist office will launch a glossy coffee-table book on Lamu – one of its Indian Ocean islands – at WTM tomorrow.