By Tullah Stephen
Kenya’s has embarked on an ambitious journey to grow its tourism sector. The Ministry of Tourism in February launched the National Tourism Blueprint (NTB) geared towards turning Kenya into an innovative, vibrant and a connected tourist destination.
Through NTB, Kenya expects to grow its international tourist arrivals threefold, up from 1.4 million in 2017. It also seeks to quadruple the domestic tourism to 26.4 million all by the year 2030. The NTB is anchored on four key points which include Product Development, marketing and investment promotion and infrastructure development.
Betty Radier, the Kenya Tourism Board CEO, the entity responsible for marketing the country’s tourism, says the board has identified 14 strategic initiatives that will be implemented in order to achieve the desired results.
Key among the initiatives is the execution of a portfolio of top, signature, and quality assured experiences that will deliver an exceptional experience to tourists and travelers visiting Kenya.
“Our first priority is to fix and refresh our tourism product and re-invigorate our engagement with our current markets both local and international.”
To achieve this KTB seeks to aggressively use digital channels to market Kenya as a favorite destination for travelers. According to Dr. Radier, digital marketing is a priority as tourist and travelers demand and preference have evolved over the years.
“We are seeing a new breed of tourists and travelers, who view digital communication as their primary source of information. Hence our targeted approach towards this group. Gone are the days where countries would rely on exhibitions alone,”
Dr. Radier adds that research conducted by the ministry, shows that over 54 per cent of visitors that visited Kenya in 2017 had research on their preferred destinations on the internet.
“Social media has totally changed the game. For the first time, we are seeing people getting referrals not only from official sources but from their peers. They are broadcasting their experiences which helps entice other travelers.”
Radier says the days where experiences would be stage-managed are long gone. Tourists want to experience firsthand nature and service. Travelers, she says, expect much more from destinations they visit.
According to Dr. Radier, Kenya will not only be known for beach and safari tourism, rather plans are to include aspects like adventure trips such as trekking, mountain climbing, nature and culture, beach holidays among others.
With the internet and social media, Dr Radier believes, travelers and tourists are empowered with information more than before and hence the appetite for personalized experiences.
She suggests that it’s time to move from mobile apps to messaging bots. Chatbots can complement social media and apps, offering a new dimension and providing customers with another way to interact with the brands, helping to streamline their experience.
“Although travelers and tourists can now perform many of the activities that travel agents traditionally provided, in particular, research and booking, a mix of both digital and traditional marketing will play a big part in helping KTB grow the tourist arrval numbers,” Dr. Radier says.
Despite a few challenges in 2017, which include a prolonged electioneering season and increased competition from other destinations, the tourism sector continues to grow steadily. Statistics from the Ministry of Tourism shows that tourism recorded a double-digit rise in earnings in last year to record just under KSh120 billion in revenues. This represented a 20.3 per cent growth form the previous year.
Kenya grew stronger in 2017 as a destination brand following positive visibility and endorsement it received through global accolades such as the World Travel Awards’ declaration of Kenya as the world’s best safari destination. This was achieved, despite a busy electioneering season that threatened to slow down tourism activities.”
In terms of share of arrivals by region, Europe contributed 36 per cent of arrivals, followed by Africa at 29 per cent, the Americas at 15 per cent, Asia at 15 per cent, and the Middle East at 3 per cent and Oceania at 2per cent. With the NTB and aggressive marketing in place, the country hopes to build on the strong performance.
Neighboring country Tanzania has also launched their blueprint with plans to attract at least eight million international tourists by the year 2025. The country’s earning in the year ending 2017 rose by 4.2 per cent to USD2.1 billion up from 2 billion the previous year.
Overall, the challenge for the sector according to Dr. Radier is increased competition and inadequate infrastructure. “There is a need to improve the road network in areas rich in wildlife,” she notes.