Beyond the Red Carpet: What the Future Holds for Kenyan Tourism

While releasing the UNWTO results for 2015, the Secretary General, Taleb Rifai noted the importance of countries to “promote policies that foster the continued growth of tourism, including travel facilitation, human resources development and sustainability,” in order to drive the sector to new heights and projections for the present year.

These three factors have no doubt a major stake in growing and balancing tourism; a sector that majorly depends on the very core of human-nature interaction. To an outsider, Kenya maybe doing well especially, if the recent victory at the 23rd World Travel Awards is anything to go by. Top on the list of the notable winners included the national carrier, Kenya Airways which, despite its recent woes managed to grab the top position as Africa’s Best Business Class; while Diani retained its position as the most envied beach destination in Africa. Mombasa main port crunched the accolades for top cruise port, warding off stiff competition from Durban port and Port Elizabeth Port both in South Africa. Yet, as much as we take pride in the tens of medals that flew home, we cannot turn a deaf ear to the new wave of crises that seem to engulf the sector every time a ray of light shines upon it.

Human-Wildlife Conflict

Top on the list on the reasons why this could be the last time Kenya prides herself of the best national park in the continent (voted Masai Mara National Park), is the endless interference with natural habitats therefore causing havoc in the animal kingdom. Fresh on our minds is the record breaking killing of Mohawk and his kith by the Kenya Wildlife Service after the two cats run astray from their dwellings in the Nairobi National Park. Although many arguments have been put forward to explain the mystery on why the cats are no longer comfortable in the jungle, it requires no scientific explanation to relate this on the road and rail construction works that are literally tearing the park apart. Interference with natural habitats not only displaces the wildlife but also triggers a domino effect on the ecosystem which, among other factors is highly influenced by the natural food chain. While the big cats run astray in search for new abodes, elephants and rhinos have it hard from the poachers who in a bid to supply the ivory demand will leave no tusk standing on the rightful owners.

Technology: Connectivity is Second to None

According to a survey carried out by Roomzzz, an English Hotelier, 65% of guests went online within the first seven minutes of rooming while a third of the guests requested for the Wi-Fi password as soon as they checked in. The survey, conducted among British travelers is comprehensively supported by an industry report carried out by Africa-focused online hotel booking firm, Jovago, which revealed that 42% of travelers prioritized good Wi-Fi connection above other amenities such as swimming pools, air conditioning, room view etc. It then goes without saying that good connection is king when it comes to winning and retaining guests. Although most properties in urban centers are on toes with the fast paced world of technology, most hotels in the reserve areas are yet to catch up; with some still grappling with poor distribution of basics such as radio signals and cellular network, thus making communication cumbersome for travelers. These seemingly alienated areas are home to a major share of our tourist destinations, making technology an important investment towards realizing the full potential of such locations.

Security and Political Stability

Security and safety is a top priority for any tourist planning to visit any desired destination. It’s therefore in the interest of any government to commit time and resources to ensure that both residents and visitors remain safe and protected at all times. Terrorism attacks on high traffic areas such as shopping malls and hotels or even bombing of vehicles in public transport, attract subsequent travel advisories that only affect the sector negatively. Although much has been and is being done to curb the trend, tourism ministry and affiliated bodies should also allocate resources to crises management in times of terror to avoid panic through disseminating filtered information and employing the right channels. Border control, installation of security check-points in high alert areas and touristic destinations will also go a long way in saving the sector. Under the same breath, police should also seek to curb local crime which include inter-tribal clashes, cattle rustling, pick-pocketing, robbery and violence as they are all detrimental to a traveler’s safety.

Infrastructure and Planning

Infrastructure refers to channels that facilitate movement of tourists from one point to the next as well as social amenities that enrich this experience. While the private sector takes up a major fraction of the amenity-oriented sphere such as building of hotels and other accommodation, development of recreation facilities and maintenance of the same; it’s the government’s role to oversee that transport channels are up to par in both quality and efficiency. Although much has been done, with flagship projects enshrined in the vision 2030 making notable headway, it is important to also strengthen vital circuits serving the reserves such as feeder roads, bridges and airstrips. Strengthening of prevailing framework as well as fast-tracking the implementation of new projects are key if the country is to claim a meaningful share of the competitive market.

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