NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 5 – The government is mulling construction of an international conference and convention centre in Mombasa, as part of the Ministry of Tourism’s strategy to position the country as a prime conference tourism destination in the international meetings market.
The facility comes as the local conference tourism sector eyes the lucrative gulf region to increase its market share in the trade fairs and exhibition sector.
Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) Managing Director Beatrice Makawiti said that there is a need to develop conference tourism within the country to international standards because it will increase conference capacity and cushion the coastal region’s cyclical tourism season by providing an average occupancy for the hotels during low seasons.
“Part of our mandate at the KICC is to ensure we bring as many international conferences to Kenya as possible,” she said.
“The MICE industry is wide and has a far reaching impact on other sectors in the economy, so it’s therefore imperative that we bring on board different stakeholder groups in order to effectively achieve the country’s objectives for this mandate,” she added.
MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) tourism refers to a particular type of tourism for large groups, and Makawiti said that it’s an alternative tourism strategy that allows the industry to tap into the lucrative business tourism market.
MICE tourism already accounts for 10 percent of international arrivals according to the Tourism Ministry, and the International Conventions and Congresses Association (ICCA), an international body that tracks the MICE industry globally, ranked Kenya the second best in business tourism destinations in Africa behind South Africa.
Makawiti explained that Kenya’s ability to successfully host high profile conferences is also strongly anchored on the country’s security and stability because the predominant source of winning conferences is through bidding.
“Therefore, it is important for us to maintain security because in bidding before a decision is reached, a lot is considered. If we get together, we can be able to bring 200 international conferences to this country annually,” she said.
“There is a need to develop conference tourism within the country to international standards, the ripple benefit of holding a convention on a local economy is immense. It also promotes personal and cultural exchanges,” she added.
Tourism Minister Dan Mwazo said: “My Ministry is glad to note that we have been allocated 10 acres of land in Haller Park, in Mombasa and we are seeking for development partners in constructing a Green Convention Centre in tandem with other world recognised “Green” Convention Centres such as Cape Town International Conference Centre and Convention Centre of Dublin.”
The minister however noted that expansion and development of MICE needs to be explored in other potential areas of Kisumu, Isiolo and Garissa.
Kenya is the only country in East Africa among the top five of Africa’s best performing destinations with Tanzania and Uganda clinching the sixth and twelfth positions respectively.
During the 1st Quarter of 2012, the tourism sector recorded 312,258 arrivals compared to last year’s 313,691, leading to a 0.5 percent decline.
The United Kingdom remains one of Kenya’s key source markets accounting for more than 45,000 of the visitors. Italy saw arrivals at 33,000 while the U.S recorded 27,887 and India upstaged France to take the 5th place in Kenya’s top five key source markets.