The Kenyan tourism industry will scale up diversification of its products from the traditional beach and safari markets to create other ways of generating income by making the experience more attractive to a wide cross-section of tourists.
Speaking at the launch of the second Kenya Tourism and Media Awards, Kenya Tourism Board Managing Director Muriithi Ndegwa said they need to promote growth in other areas that would add value to the country and make Kenya a holistic travel experience.
“We’re talking about diversifying tourism products such as promoting the culture, our beaches, the scenery, eco-tourism, and M.I.C.E. tourism,” he revealed.
M.I.C.E (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) tourism refers to a particular type of tourism for large groups, and Ndegwa said that it’s an alternative tourism strategy that allows the industry to tap into the lucrative business tourism market.
“We’ve had two major challenges which are product limitation and market limitation,” he admitted.
“In the past, Kenya was very well known as a beach and wildlife safari destination and over the years we’ve tried to diversify the product to include experiences like the M.I.C.E., eco-tourism and sports tourism as part of our package,” he said.
M.I.C.E tourism already accounts for 10 percent of international arrivals according to the Tourism Ministry, and the International Conventions and Congresses Association (ICCA), an international body that tracks the M.I.C.E. industry globally, ranked Kenya the third best in business tourism destinations in Africa behind South Africa and Egypt in 2011.
Ndegwa announced that they will aggressively promote Kenyan tourism in the global market during the next few months to increase international arrivals.
“We have already planned to showcase what Kenya has to offer in tourism at the London Olympics and we are in the process of developing a promotional campaign for the Queens Diamond Jubilee anniversary in April,” he said.
Kenya will also be one of the 10,000 exhibitors showcasing tourism products at the International Tourism Bourse (ITB) fair in Germany taking place this week, in an effort to win over three million tourists by the end of the year.
Ndegwa said the event provides an opportunity for the country to measure up with the best practices, from the best travel and tourism companies in the world.
Germany is the fourth performing source market to Kenya after the UK, US and Italy, but Ndegwa pointed out that the emerging countries, including African countries, are now the main growth drivers.
Kenya Tourism Federation Chief Executive Officer Agatha Juma appealed for more investment from the government after she revealed that estimated earnings for 2011 closed at Sh97.9 billion with the government investing only Sh1.2 billion for marketing.
“We don’t need a little more, we need a lot more,” she declared.
“The message to the budget team in government is support the productive sectors so that we can generate more for the consumptive sectors which are causing are economy to struggle,” she emphasised.
Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers Chief Executive Officer Mike Macharia supported Juma’s statements, saying the government should financially support tourism since it has identified the industry as a key component of successfully reaching Vision 2030.
Ndegwa acknowledged that the upcoming elections will present a challenge to the tourism industry, but he urged the media not to just focus on politics during the year and forget about highlighting the positive tourism experiences that the country has to offer.
“As politicians proceed with their campaigns and so on, please remember that at the end of the day, the elections will soon be over and the country will be back as it were in normal business,” he stressed.
As an added incentive for journalists to continue reporting on the tourism sector, Ndegwa announced that there would be a monetary prize given to all the winners at this year’s Kenya Tourism Awards ceremony.
Categories for the media awards include best radio journalist, television journalist, newspaper journalist, magazine, blog and website.
For tourism attractions, Juma said: ‘We have introduced some changes in the awards process, including introduction of site visits to evaluate and verify nomination information and we have engaged a professional audit firm to evaluate nominations and determine winners.”
The award gala will be held in June in an undisclosed location in Nairobi and the deadline to submit nomination forms is March 31.
Nomination entries may be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or delivered to the awards secretariat hosted by Kenya Tourism Federation, KWS Complex, Langata Road.