State tourism financier eyes deals in mountaineering, bird watching


Kenya Development Corporation (KDC) interim Director-General Christopher Huka. PHOTO | POOL

Kenya Development Corporation has set sights on funding ventures in experience tourism like mountaineering which it sees as a major growth driver for the recovering sector in the coming months.

The state-run development financier says it is looking beyond the traditional beach and safari tourism in advancing soft loans to the sector.

KDC has taken over the role of Tourism Finance Corporation – formed in 1965 to provide affordable long-term development funding and advisory services for investment in the tourism industry – following the merger of state-owned development financiers last July.

“Tourism, when revived, is an interesting sector. We have never gotten it right because our definition of tourism is the beach and safari. We are changing that mindset to create a circuit that looks to define experiences,” KDC interim director-general Christopher Huka said in an interview.

ALSO READ: Tourism defies rising Covid-19 cases as hotel bookings surge

“From the Kenya Tourism Board, Kenya has 49 experiences and we have not tapped even half of that.”

Mr Huka sees mountain climbing and bird watching as low-lying fruits with the potential to drive tourism revenue going forward.

He cited Mount Kilimanjaro in south-neighbouring Tanzania where an estimated 35,000 persons attempt to climb Africa’s highest mountain every year as a pointer to the potential of mountaineering experiential tourism.

“A good example is mountaineering where there are tourists who don’t care about the beaches, but mountains. Do we have enough luxury camps up Mount Kenya? Compare the mountaineering revenue for Kilimanjaro [in Tanzania] against Kenya’s. You’ll be shocked,” Mr Huka said.

“We also have bird watchers. There are those who love the lake, forests or just the noise of the city.”

TFC, whose functions are now under KDC, advanced Sh2.2 billion in capital lending to hoteliers for the year ended June 2021 under Economic Stimulus Programme, according to the latest budgetary report by the Tourism ministry.

Kenya’s tourism earnings jumped 65 percent to Sh146.51 billion last year from Sh88.56 billion in 2020 largely driven by domestic visits to coastal beaches as well as wildlife parks and reserves, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife.

Tourism Cabinet secretary Najib Balala said in January the recovery from the pandemic was partly lifted by improved performance in international events including Magical Kenya Open, World Racing Championship and the return of the Safari Rally.

ALSO READ: Kenya eyes Japan and Italy tourism marketing cash cut

“Domestic bed nights grew by 101.3 per cent between 2020 and 2021 while international bed nights grew by 0.05 per cent. These bed nights recovery trends are an indication that the hospitality sector in Kenya has largely been supported by domestic travel in 2021,” the ministry wrote in the tourism sector performance 2021 report 2021.

[email protected]