NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 23 – From her education to experience, it is quite clear that Jacinta Mbithi, the new Acting Managing Director of the Kenya Tourism Board is not in any way new to the marketing business.
She has been the Acting Marketing Director at KTB for the last three years and has over 10 years experience in international tourism destination marketing.
Mbithi holds an MBA in Strategic Management with basis Marketing, a Bachelor’s degree in Tourism Management from Moi University and a Diploma in Marketing of Services from Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands.
But notwithstanding all these qualifications, will she hack the top job at the tourism body?
“I don’t know how long I will be here but all I know I must make a difference,” she tells be during an interview at her office, “I have the responsibility to make KTB the institutions it ought to be.”
Mbithi tells me she did not see her acting post coming but accepted straightaway, as “she has all it takes.” The new boss replaced Muriithi Ndegwa who has been at the helm of KTB for slightly over six years.
She is coming in at a time when Kenya is on the tourism recovery process, after suffering a huge blow especially due to terrorism since 2013.
But even as KTB continues with other existing initiatives, her first course of action, she tells me, will be to review a lot of KTB’s marketing processes and models as well as the style of how the agency has been dealing with its key tourism players.
Just like Tourism Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala, it will not be business as usual.
“There are policies and models that I want to review in regards to marketing strategy, our choice of markets, our level of investments moving forward, our product portfolio and also the internal representation model which KTB applies in the source markets,” she says.
On Kenya’s representation in the source markets to be specific, Mbithi plans to commence a study that will look into whether it needs to be changed or not. “Do we need to continue having the Marketing Developments Representatives (MDRs) for example or how do we do it differently.”
Being 2016, Mbithi says, the tourism sector is changing globally and so should KTB follow suit to be able to remain relevant in marketing Kenya.
For a long time, Kenya has suffered seasonal tourist arrivals dips especially when there are events that seem to threaten Kenya insecurity like terror threats or electioneering period.
On this, she says, KTB plans to review how it will be doing its international marketing apart from events.
This will be aimed at building a strong destination brand that will be resistant to negative incidences through global media advertising, endorsements from influential celebrities, reassurance mentions, interviews with tourists who have experienced Kenya among others.
“For example the other day, Paris was under attack by terrorists yet people are still travelling there. This is because they already have a strong brand, very strong brand. This is what I dream to see,” she says, ” We want our targets markets not to be just aware about Kenya but have the familiarity and this will be through telling facts.”
At the moment, the government has an ongoing campaign with Cable News Network (CNN) where Kenya has secured 1,600 advertising slots both on TV and online. The Sh100million campaign kicked off in October and will ending in June this year targeting key markets in Europe, America, Asia and Africa.
On domestic tourism, the board plans to come up with campaigns in a few weeks time will allow Kenyans to visit various local destinations at affordable prices.
“The Tembea Kenya campaign is our local brand and just like the ongoing SMS campaign we will have more that will now specify destinations and their costs at a particular period of time. Affordability is key.”
When appointing Mbithi last week, CS Balala mentioned that she will be acting boss until the recruitment process of a new MD is completed.
Will you apply for the job? I ask her. “We will cross the bridge when we get there.”