The State has enhanced its support to various initiatives aimed at marketing diverse tourism products including mountaineering, cuisine, horticulture and lake tourism, to attract more tourists.
Outgoing Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said although Kenya continues to be a popular destination, stakeholders must put more focus on other products to boost the sector that was adversely hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Balala stated that although coastal beach holidays and wildlife safaris still remained attractive destinations, the Ministry was partnering with state agencies and the private sector in aggressively marketing alternative core tourism products that the country could offer from its diverse niches, including culture, cuisine, entertainment, sports, nature (beach and safari) and Meetings, Incentives, Exhibitions, and Conferences (Mice) tourism.
The campaign, he said, also covers all destinations in Kenya that offer rock climbing, bird watching, golf tourism, adventure sports, leisure tourism and wildlife tourism.
“We are working with industry players such as hoteliers, tour companies and guides in drawing attractions to the hidden gems that Kenya has in store,” added Balala.
In a speech read on his behalf by Acting Chief Executive Officer-Utalii College Professor Charles Musyoki during celebrations to mark World Tourism Day at Nyayo Gardens in Nakuru, Balala advised sector players to embrace local communities in diversifying their products in order to attract younger visitors who are no longer interested in traditional offerings.
He noted that the sector’s landscape had significantly shifted and that there was no need for tourism players to continue marketing their products using the same old system.
“It is worth noting that millennials are no longer interested in traveling to the Mara for four hours or staying in hotels. What they are keen on is spending time embracing cultural practices of places and people they visit,” added the CS.
Balala stated reliance on traditional tourism products has not only put a strain on the facilities and capacity but has also left the tourism industry largely dependent on a few attractions.
In his remarks Professor Musyoki indicated that domestic tourism in Kenya is a field that the industry players ought to tap into more to increase revenue as it holds huge potential and its importance for economic development cannot be underestimated.
Deputy Governor David Kones on his part said the County administration was encouraging the private sector and local communities to develop “out of park” tourism activities such as mountain biking. The initiative he stated is also encouraging visits to cultural and spiritual sites, cultural performances and community walks.
Kones challenged Kenyans to drop the notion that tourism is only a preserve for the wealthy or those with disposable income and firms in the tourism sector to also come up with reasonable packages affordable to most Kenyans.
Nakuru County Tourism Association Chairman David Mwangi noted that tourism and hospitality marketing agencies at both county and national levels have over the years focused too much on wildlife and beach products, neglecting cultural attractions and conference facilities, which have traditionally relied on fragmented promotions by the proprietors .
This he said was happening against the background that there were various other undiscovered tourist destinations around the country.
The chairman observed that enhancing equal distribution of resources to all sectors and regions would open up more destinations that would inversely arouse interest among locals.
“We cannot emphasize the role of synergies and partnerships enough as we work towards re-starting tourism. We must continue to take advantage of the new opportunities in travel, and also look out for the emerging trends,” said Mwangi.
The tourism sector performance report 2021 shows that the industry earnings jumped 65 per cent to Ksh 146.51 billion last year up from Ksh 88.56 billion in 2020.
Tourist arrivals through airports and border points also increased 53.3 per cent to 870,465 from 567,848 over the period. About 26.4 per cent visited for business meetings, conferences and exhibitions.
The tourism and travel sectors had slumped in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic with over 81 per cent of firms in the industries laying off most of their employees and 31 per cent implementing more than 70 per cent pay cut, the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife reported in June 2020.