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.