Kenya hosted 243 global and continental meetings in 2016 that attracted multi-billionaires and many heads of State and government.
According to a just-released report by conference marketing and consultancy firm, Mkutano Business Travel, the mainly State-led foreign visits helped the country market itself as a tourism and business destination.
The firm’s business development executive, Ms Angela Mumbi, said visiting presidents signed trade pacts that boosted inter-country business among private sector players, with some nations seeking the establishment of embassies in Nairobi to handle emerging challenges.
Ms Mumbi said Kenya’s active promotion of an expanded East African Community that enjoys free movement of goods, people and services, as well as capital made it a popular hub for foreign companies seeking a free trade area status for their regional operations targeting 150 million people.
“Heads of State came visiting and this gave Kenya a free marketing tool to reach television audiences in Israel, Jordan, India, South Africa, Japan, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, Rwanda and Central African Republic, among others,” said Ms Mumbi.
NAIROBI LEADING DESTINATION
The report, which looks at Kenya as a global conference brand, identified Nairobi as a leading destination followed by Mombasa and Kisumu.
Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), Safari Park and Radisson Blu were the most popular destinations in Nairobi, while in Mombasa, Sarova White Sands and Paradise Hotel emerged top, with Enashipai (Naivasha) and Kisumu’s Acacia Premier identified as the upcountry favourites.
Kenya hosted the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), the Global Partnership on Effective Development Co-operation’s High-Level Meeting and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Assemblies Association, bringing together parliamentarians from 79 countries.
“Kenya’s expanding economy has attracted an array of investors who bring in trade delegations to conduct hands-on interrogations and eventually hold strategic meetings,” Ms Mumbi said.
She said conferences and meetings promote trade as participants drawn from Kenya and abroad created networks, showcased innovation, exchanged knowledge while getting a view of Nairobi’s fast life that rolls greatly on a cashless mobile platform.
Enter Uber and Kenya joined the global ‘Uber’ world, enabling visitors to enjoy local rates while transiting from their hotel rooms to meeting venues.
About 55 per cent of attendants at these meetings and fairs were Kenyans, 22 per cent were from African countries, 15 per cent were from East Africa and 8 per cent were from across the world, the report says.
Ms Mumbi added that while September and November were the busiest months, Kenya could enjoy higher tourism earnings in 2016 from conference tourism.
NATIONAL CONVENTION BUREAU
She added that the formation of a private sector-led national convention bureau to drive marketing strategies locally and abroad would help steer united efforts to attract tourists.
The bureau will identify ways of growing leisure, sports, agriculture, wildlife and business tourism by engaging private and public sector players at all levels.
The study said Kenya’s move to digitise visa processing and increased infrastructural investments have helped lure more visitors to the country.
“Nairobi and other major towns have seen new four-star hotels built to accommodate visiting entrepreneurs who demand quality service with a known tradition of internationally known hotel brands,” she observed.
Ms Mumbi said Kenya has its best chance to triple its tourist market during the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) Destination Expo to be held early 2017, as well as during the Aid and Development Africa Summit, Modern Airports Africa and the Africa Sugar Conference, which have confirmed bookings.