Magical Kenya Tourism Expo (MKTE), the largest travel exhibition held in East Africa, attracted over 200 African exhibitors and 150 hosted buyers from different parts of the world for the three-day Expo.
On a sunny day in Nairobi, sounds of drums and traditional Kenyan song emanate from the Kenyatta International Convention Centre. Women and men dressed in traditional attires, dance energetically attracting the participants to join them in the Kenyan vibe; and it’s with great vibrancy and colours that the Magical Kenya Tourism Expo (MKTE), the largest travel exhibition of East Africa, kicked off. The three-day expo (October 2-4) brought together over 200 African exhibitors and 150 hosted buyers from 25 key source markets globally.
Najib Balala, cabinet secretary, ministry of tourism & wildlife, inaugurated the expo. “Kenya has been a leader in tourism development in East Africa and entire Africa. Each year, the show gathers more and more buyers and exhibitors from different parts of the world. This time we are happy to present some unique panel discussions, like the impact of technology on tourism and how Africa can benefit from it. We also have a unique Kenyan food market to promote our local cuisines that are not enough popular around the world,” said Balala.
In 2018, tourism arrivals to Kenya soared to 2,025,206, a growth of 37.33 pc as compared to the preceding year. Nearly 125,000 Indians visited Kenya in 2018, making India the fifth source market after the USA (225,157 travellers), Tanzania, Uganda and the UK.
In order to tap the booming segment of Meetings Incentives Conferences & Exhibitions (MICE), Kenya’s tourism & wildlife ministry has announced the creation of a National Convention Bureau. During his inaugural speech, Balala announced that Jacinta Nzioka, the marketing director of Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) will head the Convention Bureau. “India is a key market for Kenya and I’m very excited with this new challenge that I’m taking up and I look forward to push our MICE promotions in India soon, ”Jacinta Nzioka told India Outbound.
These initiatives shall be supported by the new Air India flight from Mumbai to Nairobi that shall be inaugurated end of October as confirmed by Meenakshi Mallik, Air India’s director of sales & marketing.
Interview with Najib Balala, cabinet secretary, ministry of tourism & wildlife, Government of Kenya-
Kenya is home to an important Indian diaspora, can you tell us more about the unique historical, cultural and economic links between the two countries?
First of all we recognise the historical relations between India and Kenya. Without the Indian population we would have not build the railway. And the Indian community in Kenya is very wealthy and powerful economically. We also have a lot of Kenyans travelling to India, notably for medical tourism.
The number of Indian outbound travellers is rising rapidly. As Kenya is just a 6-7 hours flight from India, we are definitely cultivating this market. Already, our fifth largest market is India and it can soon be the third biggest. Nearly 125,000 Indians visited Kenya in 2018.
Besides MICE, we are also looking at partnering with the Indian film industry, we are working with the film commission to give rebates and other facilities to encourage more films to be shot in Kenya.
And in the next six months, I’ll be travelling to both India and China, because these are emerging markets we can’t ignore. Especially because its middle class is booming.
Some people have negativity about Asia, but everybody in the world is targeting Asia. Africa needs to open its eyes across the borders and forget about the politics and focus on growing business. I have a policy here in Kenya- I don’t care about which country or nationality you come from, as long as you come and spend money in my country, I will support you and welcome you!
Any new development regarding visa facilities for Indians?
It’s quite easy to get a visa for Kenya through e-visa and visa on arrival facilities. Plus, we have visa waiver for children below 16 years of age. It’s a major plus to promote family travel, a key feature of the Indian market.
With MKTE, Kenya has positioned itself as a leader in East Africa. Can you tell us more about this success and how do you collaborate with other countries in the region?
There are many things that have been done to develop tourism in the entire East African region, the first one being the unveiling of the East Africa Visa for tourists visiting the region. Also, no visa is required for citizens of the East African countries when visiting Kenya. It is not only about development of tourism, it’s an overall economic development with Kenya’s port serving the entire region, swiftly delivering imported goods in the region and other joint collaborative initiatives in the infrastructure sector, for example.
Last year, Nairobi also hosted the African union tourism ministers meeting and the Africa Hotel Investment Forum during MKTE. What have been the advancement on these discussions and challenges raised?
Our hospitality sector is working on environmental sustainability in the industry, proactively working with local communities so that they can benefit from tourism.We also need to embrace technology/digital sphere to market experiences in the region and we have highlighted the same in the sessions during MKTE.
Among other key challenges we are addressing are the infrastructure development that will ease connectivity within the region and beyond; and the standardisation of services and ratings of hotels.
But overall, since last year there has been an increased interest of investors into the country. We have international brands and other investors from various parts of the world, including India, who have invested in the hospitality industry in the country.
Kenya is a regional business hub in Africa and it is growing in Conferencing and other Infrastructural development. Plus the ease of doing business is definitely attractive to investors as are various tax exemptions.
How effective have been your actions against poaching?
Stopping poaching in Kenya has been our global campaign with collaboration with the private sector players, Kenya wildlife service as well as the local communities.
Wildlife is our heritage and there is a need to guard it, we have enacted laws to punish the guilty. Further, we have undertaken to sensitising and educating people on a global scale on the importance of stopping ivory trade or poaching of animals. I believe that for an effective action against poaching, nations should join hands with local communities, private sectors supported by their government to stop the vice.