Dear Kenya Tourism Recovery Task Force!


tourism 2

Last week there was this ad in the paper. In fact our HR pointed it out to me saying that this was something of interest. At first I was excited. The Ministry of East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism has finally noticed that we exist. So I made a scan of the advert and once I got it on my screen I started to analyze it three things struck me.

1. This is an advert in a newspaper calling for social media users to apply to be part of the collaboration for the tourism recovery task force. The irony is not lost that the taskforce is using traditional media to seek information from new media. Most guys had to take a picture to post it up on social media for other social media people to see the advert. This means that already the tourism recovery task force have started on the wrong foot.

2. I am a blogger and tweep. I also work in the travel and tourism industry working for a travel agency. We (travel agencies/Tour operators) have not gotten any invites either through KATA (Kenya Association of Travel Agencies or KATO (Kenya Association of Tour Operators) to contribute to the Tourism Recovery Task Force. Never mind that tourism is our bread and butter. Or that we are the ones who (mostly) book holidays for tourists either directly or through partnerships with oversees agents. When you are consulting people who do not have a direct stake in the industry but you are putting out adverts to those who don’t what are you saying about the role of industry in formulating strategies for recovery of tourism.

Do not get me wrong. There are many people on social media who support the tourism industry, who travel to different destinations and have seen marketing strategies that may work for Kenya but to actually disregard the guys for whom tourism is not just a holiday but their bread and butter is telling.

3. If I hadn’t read the Daily Nation article on the same Kenya bets on social media to woo visitors  (how many have read it?) I wouldn’t have gotten the context of the ad. The advert comes across as wanting to pick the brain of social media users without paying them for their contribution apart from giving them breakfast or in basic terms exploiting somebody in exchange for a free lunch. Corporates need to realize that the era of inviting social media people to lend legitimacy to an idea or event in exchange for breakfast, lunch or dinner or cocktails are over. Social media people like everybody else have bills to pay so misusing them in the guise of giving them a free “expensive meal” needs to stop.

Anyway to my points lest I rant on. I do not see myself after this letter being invited for that breakfast so let me put my points across here.

Security. The biggest reason why the Kenyan tourism market is suffering is because of insecurity. No matter how many blog posts or tweets or instagram posts we do we will not attract tourists if we have insecurity. And I don’t mean insecurity in the major cities. Wajir or Mandera are still in Kenya. As long as there is insecurity anywhere there will always be insecurity everywhere. Let us not forgot that our porous borders allow in terrorists who then come to Nairobi or Mombasa to carry out terrorist activities including training of youth in terrorism.

A social media solution would be to invite the top travel bloggers from around the world in our target markets to come for a free FAM trip around Kenya. They will then be able to disseminate this information to their audiences. But let us not stop there. Technology is the new rich man’s industry as there are now very many millionaires and wealthy people who have come from the tech industry. So invite super bloggers like Mashable to Kenya to experience Kenya and write about it. Mashable is followed by so many people from different industries that his blog commands a lot of respect both in and out of the technology field. A couple of weeks ago the photo blogger Brandon Stanton  of Humans of New York was in Kenya as part of a tour to raise awareness on the UN Millennium Development Goals. He had huge following and got even more followers as he went from country to country. These are the kind of people who would influence others to come visit a country. So target social media influencers like him.

Coming back to Kenya there are very many lifestyle (including travel, food, fashion) bloggers and photo-bloggers and social media enthusiasts who are passionate about Kenya and showing its positive side. Find them, and work with them. Some of them may not bother coming to look for you so you have to look for them.

I could give more solutions but let me stop there. That’s a start. I had earlier outlined some of the issues in the post the challenges of Tembea Kenya.

The view expressed here is personal.

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Potentash Founder. A creative writer and editor at Potentash. Passionate about telling African stories. Find me at [email protected]


  1. Thank you for this important article. Fear is at the heart of the downturn in tourism in Kenya and many other places around the globe. Unfortunately, the good people of Kenya who rely upon the tourism industry (as well as the conservation programs dependent upon them) are feeling the effects of years of fear-mongering by media outlets desperate to sell ad space. The problem may be most acute in the United States where entire networks are based upon political fear-mongering. The powers that run these mass propaganda operations have no qualms about manipulating their audiences and fear is a potent mechanism for influencing behavior.

    That said, the task at hand is to let potential visitors know that Kenya is still a beautiful, friendly, exciting nation to visit. And while the facts support this, it’s perception that is harming the tourism industry. Thus, education and information is required to let potential visitors (and investors) know important information regarding safety. The primary issues in this regard is the safety of travel to and from Kenya, ease of entry and safety of visitors arriving by air in Nairobi and Mombasa, and security while visiting national parks, wildlife conservancies, museums, beaches, etc.. For each of these issues, there are some things that are out of control of Kenyan governmental authority. On the other hand, there are many steps that can be taken to increase security for visitors through all phases of their trips. Some of these items can be taken immediately while others will take longer. Regardless, the first step is to gather input from stakeholders throughout Kenya to identify specific issues that can be addressed. Once a real program of improved security is started, a large-scale public information program will be necessary to let folks know that Kenyans understand their concerns and have taken real steps to address those concerns.

    I hope that Americans will not be swayed by hyped-up coverage of relatively infrequent and isolated violence. As I said before, the unparalleled natural and cultural beauty of Kenya and the open and kind People of Kenya are waiting.

    Mungu ibariki Kenya.

  2. Great article as you have put it i also question the Tourism Recovery Committee’s work and composition its not rocket science and this we have sang all along Security is Key to restoring business in Kenya no matter what they research on its our taxes that they get paid with in terms of sitting allowances to come up with ideas that do not necessarily need a task force and can be given freely by Tourism stake holders. Secondly on the recovery committee team i have seen a police officer and lawyers..ooh pray what is their input in that taskforce? would you have Travel agents/Tour operators in a Lawyers caucus? if it was tax consultants, finance people you would think well the direction is good but hey lawyers? ama ni sitting allowances??

  3. Rayhab,

    The next goldenberg will come from all these digital projects and initiatives we are seeing. I doubt they are serious about the whole initiative. They have been allocated money by Treasury and need to spend it hence the newspaper ad. This is despite them being on that same Social Media they were addressing on the ad in the paper. IF they were serious, they know where to find and engage digital agencies (tembea Kenya style) for such.
    I bet a budget has been set aside for how much each online influencer ‘will be paid’ but all those who will be engaged will get a meal and bragging rights as someone pockets the money. This country has made my so cynical I probably see more than there is to see.

  4. So you saw that article too…it had me laughing and i brushed it away as soon as i read it! Poorly written ad by someone who has little knowledge about social media,its effect, influencer’s and how to run a viral campaign.He will end up with a barrage of “social media experts” and a flopped campaign. At the least bit he should have engaged Bloggers Association of Kenya(BAKE) ,some of the PR firms around that work with credible bloggers and social media influencers otherwise everyone with a blog, on Facebook or Twitter looking for a job will just respond …..#NiHayoTuu

    • I agree with you. They should have engaged their social media teams first to see what they could have done to attract the attention of influencers using social media. Let’s just hope for the future they will be more creative and innovative, and consult as well.

  5. Thanks Ray for highlighting this. It was brought to my attention via whatsapp and I admit it made me giggle? First, I have to wonder why didn’t KTB seek the participation of people via their social media channels? Isn’t that the best way to start engaging? Also, I think Kenyans will engage other Kenyans on social media – about Kenya. How far would that go?

    So, I fired an email to KTB with a couple of questions on that, and this is what they said…

    “Kindly see the advert in the newspaper today and yesterday on the call for social media users.”

    *Double Facepalm*

  6. The ad was bad idea..probably $1,000 put to a newspaper that few on social media would actually see if it was not scanned and tweeted after.

    Wish the task force week, but as Potentash has noted, the problem is not in the message, but in security and the tourism offerings