BY MURIITHI NDEGWA
The concerted crisis management and recovery efforts that followed the unfortunate fire incident at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) early in August have confirmed Kenya’s ability to bounce back from a catastrophe that would otherwise have dealt a blow to the tourism sector.
The quick actions taken by the government led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, the Ministries of Transport and Infrastructure, East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism as well as Interior and Coordination of National Government, together with the implementation of contingency plans by the Kenya Airports Authority, Kenya Airways, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, Kenya Tourism Board and other stakeholders saw the airport back in use almost 100 percent capacity in less than a week.
When the government closed the airport on the fateful day, inbound planes were quickly re-routed to the Moi International Airport in Mombasa and the Eldoret Airport, while outbound passengers who already had boarding passes were accommodated in hotels in Nairobi.
The alternative transport offered to passengers by road and charter was most welcome and salvaged some of the tourists’ itineraries while giving them an opportunity to see other parts of Magical Kenya which they would have otherwise missed.
The overwhelming support Kenya has received from other governments is also worth mentioning. It is good to note that no travel advisory was issued from any country. Instead, Kenya has received great support from private institutions in getting this important regional hub back to full operations.
The current number of tourists into Kenya for the ongoing wildebeest migration in the Maasai Mara is impressive as compared to the past years. Hotels, camps, lodges and other accommodation facilities across the country have also reported remarkable bookings during this high season; Chartered flights are back and this is an indicator that the sector is looking up.
Endorsement through international events
There is also a lot of hope from upcoming international events that the country will be hosting in the next couple of months will further serve to increase the brand equity of Magical Kenya. In September, Kenya will host the Global Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference followed closely by the Africa Hotel Investment Forum in the same month.
And in October, Kenya will host two major events; the World Travel Awards 2013(Africa category) and the Magical Kenya Tourism Expo. The World Tourism Awards is the most prestigious ceremony which has earned the reputation “the Oscars of the Travel Industry”. It will bring in over 500 guests drawn from the tourism/ hospitality industry from all over the world.
The Magical Kenya Travel Expo on the other hand, gives local tourism and hospitality players an opportunity to showcase their unmatched offerings, to 150 hosted buyers from key source markets. The hosted buyers influence tourist purchasing decisions in their respective markets, and this attests to the importance of the exhibition.
While Kenya has been known for its beach and safari offerings, KTB working with other players in the industry to open up other part of the country and showcase the diversified tourism packages. As I write, the annual Maralal International Camel Derby in Samburu is going on.
Kenya’s northern tourism circuit will also play host to astro-tourism enthusiasts from across the world on November 3. They will be at the Sibiloi National Park, by the shores of the Lake Turkana in a desert landscape where they will experience the unique total solar eclipse from.
These are just but a few events and activities that demonstrate that Kenya’s tourism sector has come of age and is certainly going to withstand the storms.
Indeed, with the tourism sector being one of the enablers’ of the economic pillars of Vision 2030, we are certain that our efforts and strategies as outlined in our National Tourism Strategy come to fruition.
(Ndegwa is Managing Director of the Kenya Tourism Board)