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The tourism sector in Kenya has an outstanding importance for the countries’ economy. It is the most important sector for foreign exchange earnings, creates thousands of jobs and was supposed to be a stable and successful part of the economy.
After the attacks in 2013 in Nairobi, at the northern coast and around Mombasa the situation has changed dramatically. Moreover many tourists feared Ebola (without any reason, of course) and cancelled their trips or changed to other destinations.
In 2013 and 2014 Kenya suffered a decline of tourism receipts by 35% per year. In some Kenyan destinations tourism development nearly came to a standstill.
But not the fear of attacks and Ebola are the main drivers of the tourism crisis. In fact, the tourism sector in Kenya has not been updated in the recent years. Most touristic offers are only standard, innovations are lacking and the diversification of products as well as quality improvements are missing. For many years the concept of “Beach and Bush” was very successful – from a current point of view, too successful. This is a very common development in mature destinations and can be observed in many other regions also.
Consulting by CBI
Under these frame conditions, I started working in a project for the export promotion of the tourism sector on behalf of the Dutch national agency CBI (Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries) together with colleagues from The Netherlands and Kenia.
The main task is to raise exports from the tourism sector to the EU markets and to develop new, sustainable and unique products. The emphasize of the project is to support the private sector. For the next 3 years, I am coaching and consulting 18 incoming tour operators. Moreover, we encourage the destination Western Kenya in developing new, sustainable and innovative tourism products.
Huge tourism potential
During the first two missions to Kisumu and Nairobi, I could observe the huge potential of the country. Many destinations are not yet developed but offer a lot of competitive attractions. The tour operators, county governments and national associations work out new, sustainable products, invest in quality improvements, infrastructure and education. Community Based Tourism, cultural tourism, active tourism and special interest offers such as Golf and Safaris, marathon trainings and mountainbike tours are only some of the new products.
“Undiscovered” western Kenya
The destination western Kenya, at the shores of Lake Victoria offers National Parks, hot springs, tea plantages and Mount Elgon with a unique flora and fauna. Currently, there are hardly any tourists to be found. Although it will take some time until new destination management organisations will be set up, first investments in hotels and infrastructure are executed. Tourists who are looking for a unique and authentic African experience will find an interesting travel destination in Western Kenya.
Working with Kenyan companies and associations is very productive. One can feel how a whole sector manages the turnaround which was overdue for a long time.