MKTE2022: Underpinning Kenya’s global attractiveness for investment in tourism development
...targets 1.46 million tourists by December
While East African countries have shown collective strength in tourism development and value for money offerings for the global tourists, Kenyan stands out among its neighbours.
From its numerous breathtaking tourism attractions and destinations, world class facilities, passionate and efficient indigenous manpower, innovative product development, and most importantly, excellent marketing skills, Kenya, no doubt, is the first point of call for global tourists heading to the eastern part of Africa.
Moreover, it enjoys a robust domestic patronage, as well as international arrivals, which have been on the increase in the last decade until the pandemic struck in 2020.
However, the country’s marketing strength is evident in the many successful editions of Magical Kenya Tourism Expo (MKTE), the largest travel and tourism expo in East Africa, which the country leverages on to woo the world to her tourism nest.
For two years, following the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic and its consequent impact, the Magical Kenya, did not hold.
While 2020 was impossible because it was the peak of the pandemic, the expo held virtually last year.
But there is excitement across the country’s tourism fraternity and the East African industry stakeholders as Magical Kenya returned for a physical meeting this year from October 5-7, 2022.
This year, over 250 exhibitors, international media and over 30 countries gathered at Bomas of Kenya, a multipurpose facility in the outskirt of Nairobi, to network, exchange and seal deals for their businesses.
The buyers are from Kenya’s key source markets, including the US, Asia, Europe, and within Africa.
Najib Balala, Tourism Secretary, could not hide his excitement at the opening ceremony of the expo on October 5,2022 at Bomas of Kenya.
According to the outgoing tourism minister, the huge participation from about 30 countries demonstrates Kenya’s global attractiveness for investment in tourism development; a feat he urged collaborative efforts to surpass.
His excitement is rooted in the fact that over the years, the expo has become a sure support for the tourism industry, while this year’s edition represents the aspirations of the tourism sector in Africa; especially the need to return to business full circle again, with sustainable recovery.
“MKTE is a great platform to sell Kenya to the global tourism market, and we are confident that in this year’s edition, we shall see some interesting developments as we look forward to building on the already existing partnerships between our tourism industry and global players.”, Balala said.
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On the part of Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), the organisers of the expo, MKTE 2022 signals a new beginning for the board and the industry, and it is aimed at rebuilding tourism in the country with emphasis on the African continent and emerging markets.
According Betty Radier, chief executive, KTB, the return of the usual in-person version of the expo is key for ensuring a robust industry, while promising an enabling environment for investors and visitors.
“We are determined to support the tourism sector by providing an environment that will attract visitors and enable them to connect with the best in local hospitality, culture and heritage”, she said.
But the private sector seemed more excited at the return of the in-house version of the expo than the Kenyan government because of obvious reasons.
Mabalch Ngulu, a South Africa hosted buyer, noted that he participated in the expo to reactivate contractual agreements his company signed with two Safari companies, which was not honoured because of the pandemic.
“You can see that people here have regained strength lost during the pandemic, they are networking, renewing deals and signing new ones. Businesses are going to pick up better after this expo. I think Kenya has done well by providing African travel buyers platform to reengage their businesses”, he said.
In the same vein, Johan Bertram, a hosted buyer from Europe, commended the organisers of the expo for their sustained efforts, which have resulted in the huge participation and fruitful engagements.
“You can see how big the venue is and it is filled up. The buyers are truly buying and I am a witness. The expo is living up to its business-to-business offering and I am happy after all the tours that have exposed us to the best parts of Kenya”, Bertram said.
For Jolly Kamau, a Kenyan buyer, the venue is a plus for Kenya Tourism Board and sign that the expo is rooted in taking advantage of diversity for the good of tourism development.
“We have had the expo outside Nairobi and it was wonderful, the KICC has been a major host, but the Bomas has added more color to it.This is my first visit here and it is a great facility and tranquil environment for events such as the expo”, Kamau said.
Meanwhile, Kenya is targeting about 1.46 million visitors by the end of the year, which is expected to translate to Sh265 billion in earnings.
According to Balala, who set the target during the MKTE 2022 show, the figure is achievable considering that, since this year, the tourism sector has sustained its recovery from the impact of the pandemic.
Explaining further on the 1.46 million visitors target, he noted that Kenya received 870,000 visitors with revenue receipt of Sh146 billion last year, which still suffered the lingering impact of the pandemic.
Considering that normalcy has retuned to the industry, people are now traveling and businesses are back, Balala assured that the target is achievable.
Apart from the three-day expo, there were familiarization trips to major destinations in Kenya by the hosted buyers and select media, as well as seminars, master classes and cultural performances.
While MKTE 2022 came to a colorful close on October 7, 2022, many participants are looking forward to next year’s edition, which Kenya Tourism Board has assured would be bigger in all respects.