Positioning Kenya as an event tourism hub

Ideas & Debates

Positioning Kenya as an event tourism hub

Tuesday June 07 2022

Children watch and listen as puppeteers hold an interactive show during the re-imagined story telling festival at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG | NMG

Leading destination brands across the world have successfully leveraged event tourism to serve as part of their brand strengthening strategy and to achieve different economic and tourism goals.

Events can be the catalyst that creates the real reason for potential tourist to visit a particular destination.

Events also improve hotel bed occupancies and boost the economies of host destinations by securing inflows of foreign capital, generating employment, and stimulating the circulation of money in the local economy. This delivers economic benefits and enhances the citizen’s quality of life.

While in the country, visitors offer host destinations an opportunity to create memorable experiences that secure their loyalty, comments and future repeat visits.

Some visitors prefer timing their visits to coincide with specific events for value addition. They do this to seek opportunities to experience unique cultural, social or recreational experiences.

In this respect, tourism revenues and arrival numbers can be positively influenced through the conception and production of a portfolio of carefully curated events aimed at generating tourist demand as well as attaining a long-term impact on the image and attractiveness of the destination.

The inherent power of events is evident in the impressive performance metrics evidenced on revenues and arrival statistics registered by top destination brands that have invested in developing required infrastructural capacity and running well-funded marketing campaigns.

Industry players and government should initiate joint event design and marketing campaigns through broader and more inclusive public-private partnerships to include developing a comprehensive annual events calendar by type, season and attractiveness to attract the domestic, regional and international travel market.

Counties should also develop and market attractive events to boost visitor arrivals and revenues. This will help diversify our tourism products.

Our tourism industry characteristically features high and low seasons. By purposefully interspersing events and strategically spreading them across the year we can purposefully and progressively eliminate the low season feature which traditionally sees a decrease in visitor numbers and revenues in most of the country’s tourism attractions.

The UK and Germany, for example, host their largest and well-attended tourism trade fairs during winter when their visitor numbers would normally be comparatively low. This is aimed at sustaining high levels of bed occupancies through delegates from around the world when the weather conditions aren’t favorable for leisure-based tourism.

The annual three-day World Travel Market event in London attracts approximately 50,000 attendees comprising senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media and generates over £3.71 billion (approximately Sh536 billion) in travel industry contracts. Pre-Covid the city of London attracted approximately 21 million visitors in 2019.

Kenya has successfully hosted a number of regional and international events. Regrettably, the country has also missed opportunities to host continental football tournaments majorly due to sub-standard or inadequate facilities.

Nairobi city is currently the only destination with accommodation capacity to host reasonably large events depending on the number of delegates.

Kisumu had to extend its search for accommodation to neighboring counties to accommodate over 10,000 delegates that attended the recently concluded 9th Edition of the Africities Summit. However, Kisumu’s economy experienced a welcome boost following the damaging effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hotels and other accommodation properties, tourism attractions, transport services providers and restaurants among others were among the key beneficiaries.

The experience gained from hosting the Africities Summit should be a stepping stone for the country to be proactive in the search for and submission of bids to host regional and international events.

There is an opportunity and existing goodwill for Kenya to position itself as a regional events hub. However, this is only achievable if government consistently allocates adequate funds and actively spearheads the sourcing of additional investments towards sustained development of the infrastructure required.

This will progressively enable the country to become a formidable contender for hosting premium international events.

We need to continue developing a variety of high-quality accommodation properties, world-class stadia and seamless mass transit systems coupled with well-trained human capital that possess technical know-how to maintain event facilities in top condition.

It is encouraging to note that some hotels have reopened after pandemic closures. International hotel brands are re-starting stalled projects or planning for new investments. This will strengthen the country’s capacity to host events due to the increased number of hotel rooms.

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