Tourism is referred to as an industry because of its power to boost the economy of a nation. Tourism is an important sector in the Kenyan economy contributing significantly over the years to our GDP. There has however been a decline in this once robust sector and the devastating ripple effects have been felt by many who depend on tourism for their livelihood either directly in the tourism sector and indirectly in the agriculture, service and manufacturing sectors.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization 2014 Highlights, indicate that the number of international tourists visiting Kenya dropped by 11.5% since 2012.
While it is delightful to see Brand Kenya, the Kenya Tourism Board and other key stakeholders gearing up to tackle this issue and aggressively revive the Kenyan Tourism industry through intensified marketing, it is important to market the Kenyan experience as one package and not bits and pieces of selected destinations within the country. Each county has an aspect which if developed, has the capacity to attract various types of tourists.
Kenya is not only endowed with beautiful landscapes, stunning array of flora and fauna, and a host of natural resources which are widely sought after, but also, the country has a great population of creative innovators who have great ideas.
Based on discussions and ideas floating around from these great minds, here are a few suggestions worth considering;
1. Improve security, this is perhaps the most important aspect in attracting and retaining a robust visitor base. (Also emphasized in a previous post on Dear Kenya Tourism Recovery Task Force!) Travel advisories against Kenya would be a thing of the past if indeed we stopped politicking and instead beefed up security nationwide. Take a leaf from a nation like Jordan, which is surrounded by countries facing political instability and conflicts, yet, with efforts to actively enforce sound security policies plus efficient international cooperation, more stability is being witnessed in their most important industry.
2. Improve infrastructure, transport and communication by constructing world class roads with clear signage and establishing top notch hotels with more than enough accommodation facilities and other important amenities that tourists enjoy. To truly relax and enjoy themselves, each visitor wants to know they are not only in a safe place, but can also easily communicate to friends and family back home and won’t have an unplanned off road experience on an expected tarmac road.
3. Reduce tax and levies on transport and hotel industry so as to bring down exorbitant accommodation and travelling costs (especially flights).
4. Enhance a positive brand image through offering customer service training based on international standards in all facilities where tourists interact with the locals.
5. Create awareness, provide information and incentives on how to market the country, such as through word of mouth and via social media. While at it, use the right people, credible bloggers and influencers, websites and other media.
6. Collaborate with time tested professionals in the tourism industry to strategize on impactful marketing and promotional campaigns via online and media platforms. This will reach and motivate more visitors, both local and foreign, to the various destinations available.
7. Develop Kenya as a destination worth visiting through showcasing what the country has to offer to a wider audience. For example, through airing world class adverts and features on CNN and BBC. Also, ensure that the demand equals supply through meeting the expectations of the visitors and even surpassing them.
8. Focus on key strengths. Tourism can be based on various aspects such as business, leisure, educational, agricultural, cultural or medical purposes including many more. A great illustration is that of Israel, which attracts huge number of eco-tourists based on their sustainable development initiatives. Therefore, Kenya should be able to offer top notch services and packages in similar areas. For instance slum tourism is quite an attraction especially owing to the fact that Kibera is the largest urban slum in Africa. Also, the upcoming WTO 10 Ministerial Conference will attract very many business tourists who will need to be wowed into becoming repeat visitors.
9. Identify, enhance and add more to the list of already popular local destinations to provide an authentic, high quality experience. This can be done by coming up with customized packages, increasing promotion and preservation of cultural heritage, artifacts and foods, for a more memorable customer experience. Take a challenge from Dubai, which is located within the Arabian Desert but has set up its own allures to become one of the world’s top tourist destinations based mainly on shopping and its possession of both ancient and modern attractions.
10. Implement more stringent policies and support mechanisms that promote developmental initiatives such as preserving endangered species of exotic plants and animals, and the creation of unique products like the Kisii Soapstone and Kamba crafts. This will in turn attract more tourists, maintain cordial relations and developmental discussions with both internal and external stakeholders who are keen in investing in Kenya’s tourism industry.
11. Support sports tourism. This is an area in which Kenya should strategize on as one of the tourism sectors to promote/ exploit. We have the best athletes in the world and we now have training athletic training camps. We also have one of the best 7’s rugby teams in the world, who wherever they go to play are cheered on by Kenyans and other nationalities as well – How rugby promotes tourism in Kenya. There are also other sports where Kenya is doing well on the international stage. The government should invest in sports tourism and use our sports personalities as Kenyan Brand Ambassadors.
We need to encourage tourists to visit our beautiful Kenyan destinations and we have a long way to go to make Kenya a top destination for both local and international tourists.