Shamit is a traveler like Aladdin of old, using his Land Rover as his magical carpet to explore Kenya. He and his friends are going on exciting adventures across Kenya and documenting their trip using film and photos on the YouTube show Routes. Following the adventures of the four friends as they navigate the different terrains on their trusty steed Freedee is fascinating as you get to see Kenya in a way you may have never seen it before. Shamit and his friends are using social media to show the world different things you can experience around Kenya.
I love social media because you can get information on anything you are looking for. Like yesterday I wanted a place where I could get nyama choma around Westlands/Hurlingham and when I asked I immediately got a couple of places to try from people I know on social media. That is one of the great things about social media, that you can not only share your pictures, stories, etc but that you can also get information from people about products, places or services to try. This is the power of social media. An article to read – Social Influencer Marketing on the Rise: New Research.
Social media has helped travelers be able to share their travel experiences and recommend places that they loved. Also travelers have also used social media to complain about bad customer service or talk about places that did not match up to their expectations. This has lead to the growth of sites like Trip Advisor where you can rate your hotels, airlines, restaurants etc. This has been helpful especially to travelers who are going to a new place for the first time as they can get recommendations on places to visit.
Social media has also created opportunities for social media influencers and bloggers to thrive. Travel in particular has many people who are passionate about documenting travel experiences and encouraging people to try new places and foods, to experience new cultures and create memories that will last a lifetime. In Kenya there are a growing numbers of people who are talking about their travels and giving people a glimpse into the beautiful places that one should visit, many places off the beaten track. Only a small percentage of these are bloggers.
Photographers like Mutua Matheka and Samir Dave have shown the beauty of Kenya through photographs and made Nairobi look sexy by night. In fact Mutua Matheka has a project right now called Unscrambling Africa, which aims to document a road trip across 13 cities in Africa and produce a photography book – The road trip starts in Nairobi. Jamila El-Jabry in Mombasa has shown us Mombasa like we have never seen it, and encouraged us to try out new places in Mombasa. Blogger The Kenyan camper has given us great tips on places where we can get a good night’s sleep and travel influencers like @njooro is always ready to give people tips on where to stay when they get to Mombasa and also plan for trips to the coast. He is now even organizing trips to different places with the last one taking adventure seekers to the north with Safari Na Marafiki.
In a previous article I had talked about Travel: Why We Should Focus On Growing Local Tourism. I believe it is also time for Kenya Tourism Board, tourism county boards and other stakeholders to start factoring in local bloggers and influencers when carrying out campaigns. A couple of weeks back people were mad on social media because a foreign influencer said on social media that she has become a brand ambassador for Kenya Tourism Board. Then the week after that influencers from SA were also making their way to Kenya.
Keep proposing your ideas they said. It’s your patriotic duty to promote your country they said. Citizens first they said. pic.twitter.com/E0r5EI9Cqd
— The Whisky Whisperer (@samdave69) November 17, 2016
— Shamit Patel (@just_sham_it) November 17, 2016
People started asking why KTB is getting foreign brand ambassadors like we don’t have enough people here who can represent Kenya well on social media. It was a heated debate on twitter and people caught feelings. KTB was quick to try and repair the damage.
Everyone who talks positively about Kenya as a tourism destination is our brand ambassador.
— Kenya Tourism Board (@MagicalKenya) November 17, 2016
— Wausi Walya (@WWalya) November 17, 2016
— Wausi Walya (@WWalya) November 21, 2016
But guys were having none of it
Then why do you not support or engage Kenyans who are actively and heavily involved in promoting Kenya as a tourism destination? https://t.co/wOKb96jwHx
— Shamit Patel (@just_sham_it) November 17, 2016
Nobody has a problem with foreign influencers coming to experience Kenya in order to create awareness in their markets but what people had a problem with is how KTB is eager to bring foreign influencers and bloggers here yet it does not support local bloggers and influencers who want to do the same thing. It’s the double standards of it all that make people mad. It could also be well KOT have issues with Ministry of Tourism after they were asked to give their ideas on how to market Kenya online then the strategy was used for foreign influencers and not the Kenyan ones. KOT have trust issues and truth is they were stabbed in the back by the Kenya Tourism Taskforce who said they wanted to collaborate but ended up just using their ideas. A new stakeholder group has come up on social media and they are vocal, calling out the Ministry of Tourism and KTB for what they see as the government going with what worked in the past which is basically using foreign PR consultancies, journalists and influencers to sell Kenya while a better job might be done by Kenyans.
I decided to catch up with different people in the social media space who are passionate about travel and who promote Kenya in their own way to find out why they showcase Kenya and what they think is the way forward. I also asked them about KTB and their reactions were varied. The people who I was able to interview were; @njooro – an ardent traveler and tourism steakholder, @Jamilaeljabry – A Business Development Manager, photographer and blogger at lifeinmombasa.com, @thekencamp of TheKenyancamper.com, @MuthuriKinyamu – Head of Programs and Communications at Nest Africa who is currently a brand ambassador for KTB and @just_sham_it – Shamit Patel who runs Myrobi Creative which dabbles in tees, creative conceptualization, marketing and promo and who is one of the adventurers with routes.
What are the reasons why you showcase Kenya?
Muthuri: Social media has become an important factor in forming, changing and setting the agenda in making consumer decisions and travel plans. We have seen this with #TembeaKenya and #WhyILoveKenya initiatives and with the way that KOT are able to amplify certain conversations. There’s is so much out here in Kenya, experiences, people, places and activities that often people don’t know about so we’re helping Kenyans rediscover their own country and get visitors from other countries. Beyond ticking off places on my bucket list, this campaign has been for me learning about new places, its people, diverse culture, and their dreams and telling these stories on social media. Step out, come visit Magical Kenya and make memories. Adventure awaits!
Jamila: Because I love Kenya and Mombasa, I want people to see the real Mombasa through my eyes. The way it is. I keep my pictures as natural as it can be, so people see the true essence of Mombasa.
The Kenyan Camper: I’m out to do two things; inspire and inform. It’s all well and good for us to showcase our beautiful Kenya but this must go hand-in-hand with up to date, relevant information for travellers to make informed decisions.
Shamit: I’ve traveled a lot across this country. I’ve seen many different people, cultures, terrains, wildlife, ecosystems, problems and creative solutions. I’ve seen so much beauty in people and places in Kenya that I would find it very selfish of myself if I didn’t at least make an attempt to show the world what my country has to offer. I showcase Kenya because I don’t want to keep her beauty to myself. I want to enable people to travel across her so that they too may find peace in her vast and wonderful aura.
Njooro: I showcase Kenya for the sheer beauty of it. For the love of the diverse nation and what it holds for all of us and most importantly for the sake of improved tourism. For me it is important because I make a living from tourism and people need visual stimulation to get out and travel more. Moreover, there’s a serious lack of information on most of our destinations. Kenya has a lot more to offer than we fully acknowledge. We need more sharing.
How do you showcase Kenya?
Muthuri: KTB invited locals to team up and pitch ideas on how they’d showcase Kenya so we applied and got the gig after a multi-phase rigorous selection process. We – Team #TwendeMara were picked to enhance the content offer on Kenya Tourism Board’s social media space in a campaign dubbed “The Great Migration Takeover”.
We’ve traveled around the country -almost every weekend we had to put together a team – mix of photographers, bloggers and influencers. Over the last 3 months, we’ve been telling our travel stories and experiences on social media to showcase Kenya as a modern holiday destination where people have the convenience of modern life but can also connect with tourism products in a uniquely Kenya way, as told by Kenyans. Seeing Kenya through the eyes of locals, capturing some memorable moments and amplifying stories online has been incredibly powerful and relatable.
At the end of it, you want to read about experiences, reviews and take recommendations from friends and locals about things to do and what not to miss – and our trips have been just about that. Somehow every other weekend, my friends now ask “where are you?” not “how are you?” It has been a great experience being able tag friends along; recommend cool things people can do with their time and money.
Going beyond the ‘touristy’ places, deep down to what’s often over-looked and undiscovered has been an amazing experience with all the people who have come through and we hope to continue doing great things to showcase our beautiful country.
Jamila: I mostly showcase Mombasa; I run a blog called Life in Mombasa, where I showcase Mombasa through photography and blogging. Occasionally I travel and do personal blogs on places I have been. When people see Kenya through our eyes it makes them feel closer to Kenya. I think it is more real, because they use kawaida tools available to showcase Kenya. You don’t have to have expensive gear to show Kenya to the world.
The Kenyan camper: Besides my website, social media plays a big part in humanizing my content and making it more accessible to the people I’m trying to reach. Instagram especially is where I do a lot of my ‘close up’ work. Answering questions from followers, creating relationships and interacting with other content creators who are also a big part of my own inspiration.
Shamit: I suppose I do this in many little ways. I began by writing small articles about the places I visited but soon found that there were writers better than I. So I started taking pictures, which I still do, of the places we visit and using Instagram as a tool to get them out there. But I found there were photographers better than I too! So I gravitated to creating something entirely unique; a TV show which would capture not only the surreal beauty of the country but also the experiences of the four individuals travelling through her. That way, we get a human response to the nature we’re in.
The show is called Routes and we are hoping to have it completed soon but due to lack of funding and just simple partnerships, it has been a frustrating path. We, however, intend to do our best to showcase Kenya through a fresh unique perspective which has never been done before. The other way I showcase Kenya is by attempting to collaborate with as many other people who are involved in this field. People are not always receptive but we must continue to come together because together, we have all the tools we need in order to show this beautiful country to everyone. Read more about Routes in this article Travel: Adventure show Routes shows the beauty of Kenya #TembeaKenya.
Njooro: I share stories of places I’ve been on social media. Sometimes on blogs – other people’s blogs. I find that sharing pictures and videos on social media goes a long way in influencing how people perceive destinations & travel.
What has been your experience dealing with KTB
Muthuri: Over the years KTB has continued to invest in online marketing and they did this campaign to take their digital marketing efforts a notch higher. I had a chance to work with really forward thinking people there with innovative ideas and interact with brilliant folks – both at KTB and players in the tourism industry and it’s been a great experience for parties, partners and equally fulfilling. This was the first time they were doing social media takeover and is a welcome step towards testing new ideas and experiments.
I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunity – it’s been a great learning for me about the business of travel, destination marketing and how Kenya’s tourism industry works. While at it, we’ve received really constructive feedback and used our channels and contacts to highlight some sticky issues.
Jamila: It has been pleasant; I did a one week takeover in the Instagram Takeover program. The takeover entailed people showcasing their city or location through photography. I was covering Ramadan and I would send them pictures to put up on the account.
The Kenyan Camper: My experience has gone from lukewarm to cold. I’ve seen some of the ideas I have pitched to them implemented without my input or any credit to me. Unsurprisingly, the execution is always poorly done.
Shamit: Quite possibly the most difficult people to bring on board. We have had at least five meetings with the hierarchy in KTB, all which led to promises of support, financial or otherwise, but not one came to fruition. We have sent many proposals, countless emails and also offered for them to be a part of Routes for free because we believe that the Tourism Board of the country should have a part to play in efforts that Kenyans are trying to make. Even that fell on deaf ears.
The tourism board has always told us that they have no money to allocate to our project and yet we repeatedly see millions being spent on the same things that have been done for the past ten years. If they keep pouring money into the same things that haven’t worked, why don’t they just try to join forces with more enterprising and innovative folk? We know that there’s plenty of locally driven projects concerning tourism but not many of them are supported by the board. It’s frustrating.
Njooro: No comment.
What can KTB work with Kenyan influencers/bloggers to market Kenya?
Muthuri: I always say this is the era of unlikely allies. The Great Migration Social Media Takeover was a proof point and demonstrated the untapped potential of working with local ambassadors in a bit more structured way that’s trackable and results can be measured over time. I’d love to see such bold initiatives backed not just by KTB but even industry players to support such campaigns all year round. How epic was #TheAcaciaEscape for example?
Since I don’t hold brief for KTB, I’ll share my two cents here. I believe we can double the effectiveness and results by combining efforts and teaming up with both local and influencers in other countries. Influence is really all about consistency, clarity, and credibility – and thus everyone has a voice, audience, and network – small or big to broadcast to.
Beyond KTB’s role and facilitation, players in the industry have been supportive and warming up to online campaigns to showcase experiences – not just their packages and properties. It’s been good seeing hotels plan excursions and work together – more cooperation (not competition) is thus needed. Also counties have a role and slot to plug in. At the end of it, it’s really all about working together to make it happen. Every new concept will face some resistance but we’re seeing more multi-stakeholder buy in working collectively to combine resources and boost their efforts.
We applied as a team of four – travel blogger, a journalist, a designer and myself as the team leader – all united by our passion for adventure, storytelling and traveling to experience the best of Magical Kenya. There’s an opportunity for marketers, creatives and techies to combine efforts because to be honest at the end of it all, it’s really about the bottom line. Instead of pitching a solo project, maybe team up with other like-minded people and do something epic.
To sum it up, Kenya is home for me and I’ll still play my small role to draw people to visit, get Kenyans out travelling around to see what Kenya has to offer and have a great time here. Kenya is beautiful and everyone has a role – including bloggers and influencers towards boosting destination marketing efforts.
Jamila: There are so many bloggers and photographers. Let people keep sending photos to keep the social media up to date with good pictures. Also they need to get someone who knows how to handle the social media pages, the contents are all over the place. Some are not high quality pictures, and the content is disorganized. I feel like we are not fully utilizing the social media space to its full potential.
The Kenyan Camper: Content creators are collaborators by nature; we know what great things can come out of teamwork. KTB needs to repair the poor relationship it has with Kenyan influencers and encourage and facilitate the passion these artists have for their country. We’re willing to listen if they’re willing to talk. Together we can make magic happen.
Shamit: Perhaps by opening their eyes and seeing how much passion people who are trying to do things to positively affect tourism have for this country. And then by supporting them. By opening the right doors, by funding their projects, by creating a culture of unison between us and them instead of this division where we end up fighting against each other while our goal remains the same. Yes, they have to bring in people from around the world. No one disputes that. But for them not to support us Kenyans here in Kenya who are trying to make a difference is just a backhand slap to an already bruised face. All they need to do is give innovative ideas a chance instead of feeling that they need to do everything in house. We build Kenya together. They have the resources, we as the people have the ideas. At the end of the day, it’s all about promoting Kenya.
Njooro: I think KTB should focus more on markets abroad. KTB should be obsessed with bringing in tourists from all over the world. Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Middle East. The domestic market work should be offloaded to a competent agency that can engage the bloggers and influencers. Part of the problem is that KTB has no capacity to properly engage with influencers. With no social media strategy, no content calendar and most likely no tools to measure effectiveness. How then can they effectively engage influencers?
Counties too, like Lamu has shown have tremendous potential in mobilizing people to travel within Kenya and should be empowered with more training.
I hope KTB and the Ministry of Tourism are listening and are willing to turn things around. And on that note I would like to welcome Betty Radier, the new CEO of the Kenya Tourism Board and ask her to find a way to bridge the chasm that KTB and the Ministry has created with social media users. As she said at an event I attended we are all stakeholders and we are in it together to make Kenya a great tourism destination.