NAIROBI, August 6 – The Tourism Trust Fund (TTF) is a unique collaboration between the government and the European Union (EU) established in 2002 with a sum of Sh2.2 billion for the purpose of financing destination marketing of Kenya, as well as developing and diversifying Kenya’s tourism product. TTF’s outgoing Chief Executive Officer Dr Dan Kagagi spoke to Capital Business.
Dr Kagagi joined TTF in 2004, taking over from Zakayo Ole Mapelu.
Q: Please explain some of TTF’s achievements under your tenure?
A: The achievements are in three categories. First, the recovery of the industry after the 2002 Kikambala terrorist attacks which seriously crippled the sector. This was my first crisis at TTF. It was during this time that the Tourism Market Recovery aimed at marketing the country to the source market was rolled out. The programme ran from 2003 up to 2004 and had a huge impact on reviving tourism.
It is this marketing campaign that greatly boosted the sector’s performance last year, which received the highest number of tourists (more than 2 million) generating a revenue of Sh65 billion as compared to previous years where the sector’s revenue stood at between Sh23 to Sh24 billion.
The second achievement is the development of beach management programs and community-based tourism products which have changed the perceptions among local communities that tourism is foreign-owned. This has given the locals an opportunity to participate in the sector as players.
Thirdly is the strengthening of the private sector through capacity building of the umbrella body; the Kenya Tourism Federation. TTF has also been able to strengthen regional association bodies where similar perception as those among local communities has existed. Some of these associations include the Lake Victoria Tourism Forum, Mount Kenya Tourism Forum and the Samburu Wildlife Forum. This has helped them market themselves as well as lobby to the government on various aspects.
Q: Is tourism out of the woods yet after the post-poll violence?
A: The sector is not completely out of the woods though the ongoing government efforts in conjunction with agencies such as the Kenya Tourist Board and TTF are paying off as the numbers are fast trickling in. We must admit that recovery is not easy considering that most source markets visitors place long term booking however they had to withdraw and cancel them then.
On the other hand the efforts are paying off as hotels and airlines are reporting increased bookings for 2009. The recovery cycle is going to be faster than the 2002 one and we are hoping that the recent CNN marketing deal with the government will pay off also.
Q: Kenya is said to be a virgin destination, why is this?
A: Kenya is still a virgin in two ways; there are many destinations that are yet to be developed as tourist attraction sites. Among the areas include Mid-Rift (Iten and Kabaranet), Turkana famous for the Lake known as the Jade Sea, Marsabit and Tana River.
Secondly, the domestic market is far from servicing the sector by generating half of the expected sector’s revenue. It is for this reason that players as well as domestic tourists need to develop cultures such as taking travelling for leisure. There is a need for the sector to expose and create awareness among them.
Basically, the sector is still scratching the surface as we are not yet there.
Q: As you leave TTF, what would you want to see your successor doing?
A: I would expect an aggressive participation in the development of the National Tourism Policy in line with the objectives of Vision 2030 considering that tourism is one of the main pillars set to drive the ambitious plan. There is a need to capture more funding for the development of the three resort cities as stipulated under the Vision 2030 as well as develop innovative products that will entice the source markets.
Q: What are some of the challenges that TTF has continued to face over time?
A: Financing tourism remains a challenge and the private sector players will attest to this fact. The 2002 marketing strategy had a KSh500 million and this was still not enough. On the other hand the market is developing and remains competitive thus the need to invest more in product development and marketing.
At the same time, since TTF might not be able to fund all the projects, there is a need for sector players to tap funding from the capital markets such as issuing tourism bonds to support the sector.
Q: What will you miss most at TTF?
A: TTF mostly works with communities to lift up their lives from a tourism perspective. It was always wonderful seeing local communities happy of what they have been able to achieve through TTF’s help.
Q: A sneak preview of what you are up to after TTF?
A:Though a lawyer by profession, I hope to go back into the financial sector where I had developed huge interests in. I am hoping to go more into investment banking as I have a dream of developing a tourism bond. Tourism is also next to my heart so expect to see me wearing another hat in the private sector.
I am satisfied with what we have been able to achieve as a donor funded body and believe that its time I advanced my career somewhere else.
Q: Final word?
A: The tourism sector is the biggest consumer of internet, the use of it will radically change how business in the sector is done as in marketing and selling of tourism products. If the industry does not adapt to online tools then some of the players will slowly fizzle out.