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Sports tourism has great growth potential in Kenya

Kenya has over 40 golf courses, eight of which have hosted major tournaments and are considered to be of international standard. file photo | nmg
Kenya has over 40 golf courses, eight of which have hosted major tournaments and are considered to be of international standard. file photo | nmg 

Traditionally, most people connected with sports by following various games from their living rooms. A look at the sporting arena today, however, reveals a growing trend in which more people are preferring to watch these games live.

The sports pie is increasingly getting sweeter. Not just for players and their managers, who are making lucrative deals, but also for various host countries through the millions of sports fans who cross borders to watch their favourite players and teams.

This is clearly evidenced by the hotly-contested bids to host global sporting events such as the World Cup, Olympics and closer home, Africa Cup of Nations.

There are now over 1.1 billion international tourist arrivals worldwide, with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) predicting that by 2020, this will rise to 1.4 billion.

Tourism now accounts for 9 per cent of the global GDP, one in every eleven jobs worldwide and has a value of over Sh. 151 trillion in exports.

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Within this extraordinarily-resilient and multi-faceted industry, sports-related tourism is now presenting major opportunities for both emerging and mature destinations.

According to UNWTO, the global tourism market is projected to grow between two and three per cent - with the sport tourism sector expected to grow in the region of 14 per cent. Indeed, many observers regard international sports as being one of the primary reasons for this global growth in tourism.

The sport tourism market is a fast-growing sector of the global travel industry and equates to Sh 60.7 trillion a year. Some countries have managed to harness the opportunity presented by the sports sector. Sporting events have a wider economic impact that goes on beyond the final whistle.

This has seen major tourism destinations developing tourism product concepts revolving around pleasure sports such as golf.

These concepts enable destinations to increase their competitive edge in the international arena, attracting tourists who are keen on getting in touch with nature, and interacting with the community to enjoy a healthier and interactive holiday.

Kenya has over 40 golf courses, eight of which have hosted major tournaments and are considered to be of international standard. There are a number of smaller courses that offer a unique experience.

Take the Mount Kenya Safari Club’s 9-hole golf course, for example. It not only sits in the shadows of Africa’s second highest mountain – Mt. Kenya, but right along the Equator where one can tee-off in the northern hemisphere and putt out in the southern hemisphere.

Kenya also hosts the only PGA-approved golf course in East Africa – the Vipingo Ridge Baobab Course. With long days, consistent sunshine and temperate weather to nourish its courses, Kenya has always offered the perfect golfing escape from the northern hemisphere.

As the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, we are committed to consolidating the gains we have made over the years and make Kenya a must-see destination for the discerning international golfer.

It is partly for this reason that the government committed Sh100 million to the just-concluded Barclays Kenya Open, because of the value it brings to destination Kenya.

Najib Balala is Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife.

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