A task force has recommended the setting up of a conference tourism marketing bureau.
The aim is to form a common front for selling the country to potential visitors. It wants the agency allocated Sh250 million budget.
The team for implementation of the Kenya National Convention and Exhibitions Bureau is expected to end the disjointed multi-agency campaigns where a number of agencies have been reading from different scripts.
Interestingly, Kenya Tourism Bureau, Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Tourism Regulatory Authority, Brand Kenya, Magical Kenya, Tourism Finance Corporation, Bomas of Kenya and Kenya Tourism Federation, as well as private players, promote Kenya’s tourism abroad but none of them knows what the other is doing.
Hotelier Tasmeen Damji, who led the 10-member task force, said these agencies spend time competing against each other with no clear understanding of their individual roles.
The 22-page report handed to Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala says the United States had 582 bureaus handling specific roles that helped woo tourists to its shores and airports. And South Africa and Rwanda have bureaus that co-ordinate tourism growth plans, helping unify promotion efforts.
The new bureau could start as a department under the Kenya Tourism Board, but with its own budget. Ms Dhamji said Kenya needs to re-look its regulatory framework and centralise its promotion efforts, avoiding duplication.
“Information provided should be specific. Besides wildlife and leisure, Kenya has other attractions to sell to the world such as sports, conference and business tourism. These have in the past provided a safety valve when leisure and wildlife faltered,” she said.
Mr Balala formed the team after receiving a World Tourism Council report that showed Kenya had earned Sh125.7 billion from conference tourism in 2015, a third of all tourism earnings.
The new bureau, he said, would have an independent board made up of State and private sector professionals.
He said 4,000 rooms would be available in Nairobi in the next three years after world renowned brands complete ongoing projects.
Skimming the Internet in search of Kenya brings up lots of information that hardly addresses matters on security, transport and prices for various services and facilities.
The task force said that once set up, the new bureau would have a programme of events to help Kenya market itself abroad during major exhibitions and conferences.
The bureau would also co-ordinate local efforts to create a national tourism curriculum for use at tertiary tourism colleges and universities.
“Tourists value the service, courtesy and efficiency they get from the people they interact with — from the airport, towns, streets, art lodges and wildlife sanctuaries. It’s time we set up a national agenda on how Kenyans could woo tourists for repeat visits,” said Mr Balala.
Other attractions in Kenya’s 47 counties will include cultural festivals, sports (athletics) and the soon-to-be-launched culinary festivals celebrating traditional meals. These will be placed in a national calendar of events.
For instance, the Maasai are known for their roasted intestine delicacy (sausage) that is popular with tourists visiting one of the eight new wonders of the world — the wildebeest migration at Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
Oddly enough, formation of the new bureau adds to the list of funded State agencies promoting Kenya’s tourism abroad. But Ms Damji said its return on investment could be realised in a record three years.
Individual county governments are also forming tourism boards to market themselves abroad.