Pageant contestants arrive in Kenya for six days of filming Kenya is no stranger to spectacle but its capital yesterday hosted a glittering event quite unlike anything the African nation has seen before - the arrival of 18 Hong Kong contestants for a six-day filming trip. The finalists were greeted at Nairobi airport by Kenyan tourism officials, the media and aboriginal Masai people who sang and danced to the rhythm of traditional drums an hour before dawn. 'This is a big, big event for us. This is the first time an overseas beauty pageant has come to Kenya,' said Rose Kwena, public relations manager of the Kenya Tourist Board, sponsoring the trip with Kenya Airways. Organiser TVB has sent the contestants to Kenya to film publicity footage for the contest, which will be held in August. The 18 finalists are being accompanied by pop singer Gigi Leung Wing-kei and a group of 26 Hong Kong journalists and more than 40 support and production staff from TVB. Hong Kong's first honorary consul to Kenya, Tam Wing-kun, who leads the delegation, is hoping the beauty queens will help to promote Hong Kong as a tourist destination and attract Hongkongers to Kenya. Fred Okeyo, regional manager (emerging markets) of the Kenya Tourist Board said Hong Kong could help open up the big Chinese market for Kenya. He said the number of Chinese tourists who travelled to Kenya, including those from Hong Kong, almost doubled from 2,800 in 2002 to 4,800 last year. With the help of the beauty queens, Mr Okeyo expects this number to double again, with about 10,000 Chinese tourists visiting the country this year. His optimistic forecast is also based on the fact that Kenya was the third African nation after Egypt and South Africa to sign an approved destination status agreement with China, enabling mainlanders to visit in organised groups. Mr Okeyo dismissed suggestions Kenya was eyeing the Far East market because of dwindling numbers of tourists from Europe and America following the bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi in 1998. 'The European and American markets are growing. Our expansion to the Far East is a strategy of diversification,' he said. The beauty contestants yesterday said they were thrilled about the prospect of seeing wild animals and learning about Kenya's history. Finalist Queenie Chu Wai-man, 23, was impressed by the traditional tribal dances at the welcoming ceremony. 'It's so interesting,' she said.