Tourism to realise the dividends of Obama’s visit in 2019


Experts and investors foresee a bullish second half of 2018 for the tourism sector after former US President Barack Obama visit. According to Bobby Kamani, managing director, Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa, hotels are set to cash in on thriving domestic tourism especially from August which is the beginning of high season at the coast. However, the dividends of Obama’s visit will fully be realised in 2019.

“In 2015, Pope Francis and President Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya was a great marketing story for international tourism into Kenya. The effects of this international interest in Kenya, were however, only felt a year later with arrivals into the country increasing,” Mr Kamani says, adding that the industry should continue to see increased interest in Kenya from the international markets similar to the outcome of the 2015 visit, by seeing a positive variance in arrivals into the country in 2019.

“For now, it would be wise for our hoteliers to continue with their efforts in attracting more local and regional travellers to their properties,” he noted.

At the same time, he called on the tourism industry to neutralise the perception that travel is a luxury yet Kenya’s tourism products continue to attract visitors from across the globe. Most Kenyans, due to an inherent lack of knowledge, have not had the opportunity to tour major attractions in the country.

“Travel is still perceived as a ‘luxury’ for the ever growing middle class even though numerous affordable destinations across the nation have been widely accessible since independence. Domestic tourism, in this respect, needs to be developed.”

Having more direct flights form international destinations with affordable airfares, he says, is important. In fact, the recent approval of KQ to fly directly to the US will also be a major boost to Kenya’s tourism sector. In the local arena, Jetways Airlines, which has been flying between Nairobi and Maasai Mara since December last year, has introduced direct flights to Diani thereby increasing traffic to South Coast, an indication that domestic tourism is looking up.

Meanwhile, Mr Kamani has pointed out the need for a functioning regulatory framework to help with provision of accurate and relevant information to promote domestic tourism. Functional tourism frameworks can be developed if transparency by industry stakeholders is made compulsory as a necessary prerequisite to operate as a tourism service in Kenya.

He says that the Tourism Regulatory Authority can implement this as one of the key criteria when classifying properties across the country

“For now, KTB (Kenya Tourism Board) unfortunately has to rely on hotel bed occupancy records alone to determine domestic tourism growth. KTB is working diligently alongside the Ministry of Tourism to improve on domestic tourism data including its actual contribution to the industry.”

However, word of mouth ranks top on sources of domestic travel information. Together with online reviews and social media travel influencers they have become the most important sources of travel information.

This is coming at a time when a study conducted by Consumer Options show that 67.3% get their travel information from friends and family while 50.3% rely on the internet for travel information. It is understood that the most common Internet sources of information are Facebook and Instagram at 59.7% and 28.6% respectively:

“The current millennial traveller is very clear about what they are looking for – usually fun and adventure. It is therefore very important for providers to mark up their facilities accordingly if they want to capture this growing market within Kenya,” he noted.

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