CONFERENCE TOURISM IN KENYA – ONE OF THE KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL FUTUREBy Jimi Kariuki / August 2016
(Posted 17th August 2016)
There is no disputing that the soft white sandy beaches that line Kenya’s 536 km long Indian Ocean coastline, and our National Parks, Reserves, Conservancies and Sanctuaries that are abundant with flora and fauna, are the main tourism attractions in our Country. Other tourism products including cultural tourism, heritage tourism, eco-tourism, adventure tourism, golf tourism, marine tourism and water-sports tourism, underpin the diversity of attractions that Magical Kenya offers to all travelers.
In addition, the growth in conference tourism in Kenya indicates the huge potential this segment has in its overall contribution to our tourism sector. The Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) sector is on a major growth path globally and no doubt Kenya has begun to enjoy the benefits from this market to our economy and in enhancing the Country’s brand equity.
The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), headquartered in the Netherlands, carries out an annual ranking of the performance of MICE tourism globally. In carrying out the ranking, the ICCA considers factors such as the number of conferences organized in destinations, the size of the conferences in terms of the number of delegates participating, the duration of the conference, the frequency of the conference and the subject and profile of the conference. The Country and City rankings play a major role in influencing the MICE organizers on which destinations to hold their annual events.
The City of Nairobi, voted Africa’s Leading Meetings and Conference Destination at the 2016 World Travel Awards, has played host to several high profile meetings and conferences in the last one year that has seen delegates from across the globe flock in to the city in large numbers. This is a clear indication of the high potential that the meetings and conference market has in contributing toward the growth in our tourism arrivals and revenues. The ease of air accessibility into Nairobi through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is an important factor that provides support to this growing market, as well as Nairobi being the host City of the United Nations Africa headquarters, United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), and the business hub for East and Central Africa.
In 2014, international conferencing arrivals into Kenya stood at 103,891 delegates, representing 12% of the total international tourist arrivals. In 2015, the arrivals from this market grew by 13% to 117,630 delegates, representing 15.6% of the total international tourist arrivals for that year. Further growth in the conference market is expected in 2016.
Most notable of the major meetings and conferences held in Nairobi were the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) held in July 2015, the World Trade Organization (WTO) 10th Ministerial Conference in December 2015, and UNCTAD 14 (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) in July 2016.
Nairobi will host the 6th Tokyo Investment Conference on Africa Development (TICAD) on the 27th and 28th August 2016, the first time this conference is being held in Africa since its inception in 1993. TICAD VI will seek to identify common priorities for accelerating sustainable development, including the growing role of the private sector in driving progress on the continent. The event will take place at the Kenyatta International Convention Center (KICC); the largest convention center is East and Central Africa.
The largest East Africa tourism fair dubbed Magical Kenya Travel Expo (MKTE) 2016 is scheduled to take place in Nairobi from October 12th to 14th. This will be the 6th year that this event will be taking place. The fair organized by the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) brings together tourism professionals from over 35 countries that represent Kenya’s key tourism source markets. These markets included Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas. The event will take place at the KICC in Nairobi.
In December 2016, Kenya will also play host to the second high-level meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation. The four-day long meeting to be held at the KICC is an inclusive global forum that helps governments, businesses and civil society work closer together toward ending poverty.
Indeed these events have raised and boosted visitor and investor confidence in the destination, as well as positively projecting Kenya on the global tourism map. This positive environment has attracted new investors in the hospitality sector who are keen to cash-in on the growing meetings and conferencing market. International hotels such as Radisson Blu, Kempinski, dusitD2, Crown Plaza, Best Western, are examples of well known hospitality brands that have set-up in Nairobi to support increased capacity in both quality hotel beds and in meetings and conferencing facilities and services.
Apart from the immediate benefits enjoyed by tourism related businesses from the meetings and conferencing events held in Kenya, such as high City hotel occupancies and the spin-off pre- and post-event safari tours, the trade and business agreements concluded at the events provide great benefits to the Country and to the Africa continent at large.
Kenya continues to position itself as a key meetings and conferencing destination in Africa. The Kenya Tourism Board is very optimistic that this positive momentum in the conference tourism market will be maintained throughout the year, as our overall tourism figures continue to record an upward trajectory.
Jimi Kariuki is the Chairman of the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB)