Magical Kenya makes big splash with natural wonders
Kenya is sharing its sustainable approach to tourism with the travel industry at ITB Berlin 2023
Making her debut at the trade show, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary – Hon. Peninah Malonza, outlines the country’s tourism vision in an exclusive interview with ITB Berlin News.
You are visiting ITB Berlin 2023 for the first time in your new position as Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife & Heritage. What are the key messages have been communicating at the show?
It is an honour to visit the world’s leading travel trade show as Kenya’s Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage Cabinet secretary. I am hoping to build on the excellent work done to market the destination, my goal is to create new partnerships that will grow our industry further.
We have made tremendous progress over the past two years given the challenges we have had to overcome during the Covid-19 pandemic period. Now, it is time to communicate a message that resonates with the multitudes of tourists from across the world who are keen on visiting Magical Kenya and experiencing our rich tourism experiences and culture once again.
There is renewed expectation as the industry charts a path back to pre-pandemic levels.
This year’s ITB trade fair offers a great opportunity to communicate our new approach to tourism especially given that this expo is an important gateway to the international tourism market. We are here to showcase and promote Kenya’s unique tourism products and services.
We have had a large number of business meetings and showcases, as we seek to sell the destination and bolster existing relationships with stakeholders within the travel industry.
What are the topics that Kenya is promoting at ITB Berlin this year?
We are repatriating to the international market that Kenya has resumed travel fully and that the destination Magical Kenya is the real deal. We are putting a spotlight on the destination’s diverse tourism offerings. Kenya has evolved as a tourist destination with different niches in the market including adventure, sports, cultural, mice and eco-tourism. For the discerning international traveller, this will certainly be something of interest.
How has Kenya’s travel & tourism industry performed in 2022?
The industry has shown great promise and resilience, we are indeed on the right path as we shake off the effects of the pandemic.
The destination witnessed good growth in 2022 thanks to destination marketing campaigns targeting both the domestic and international markets as well as hosting of key international key events such as the Magical Kenya Ladies Open, the 9th Africities Summit the WRC Safari Rally among others. In the same way, we have seen our source markets grow strongly.
Last year, the international tourist arrivals stood at 1,483,752 representing a 70.45% increase as compared to 2021 arrivals of 870,465. The arrivals represent a 72.4% recovery towards the 2019 numbers which is above the global average recovery rate of 63%, therefore signifying that we are making headway on our journey towards pre-COVID-19 levels.
Likewise, inbound receipts grew up to $2.13 billion compared to $1.16 billion earned in 2021 which is a growth of 83%. There was also notable improvement in Kenya’s air passenger arrivals which was higher than the global average thanks to relaxed travel restrictions that allowed leisure and business travel.
How important is sustainability and how are you promoting it?
Sustainability is a key pillar of Kenya’s tourism sector, especially since sustainable tourism ensures continuity and development of the sector for the future. The Kenyan government, through the Ministry of Tourism, wildlife, and Heritage, continues to implement various initiatives aimed at promoting sustainable tourism while finding a balance between communities, travellers and conservation to ensure that we sustain our assets for as long as possible.
A good example of these initiatives was witnessed in 2021 when the government, through the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), carried out the first-ever National Wildlife Census. This was a key exercise which gave us an understanding of the wildlife species we have and their needs in terms of their conservation for the long term. The aim is to ensure the protection of all the species and to ensure that our parks and conservancies can continue offering great experiences to our visitors. The ban of single use plastics from all the parks has been a huge success in championing sustainability, some of the businesses are also trying out the use of electric cars and maximising on solar energy.
On the same note, as part of efforts to champion elephant conservation in Kenya, the government, through my Ministry, launched the Tembo Naming Festival in October 2021 and the second edition more recently on March 3rd 2023 which coincided with the World Wildlife Day. The annual event is aimed at raising funds to conserve elephants by minimising human-wildlife conflict. So far, close to 500 communities in the environs of Amboseli national park have directly benefited from projects funded through the initiative.
How important is it for the industry to meet face to face at events like ITB Berlin and why?
The need for a face to face interaction is critical in the tourism business. Tourism is a visitor experience business, and the emotional attachment to a country, place or product remains critically important in the decision-making process of consumers.
In addition, meeting and interacting with different people from different cultures exposes you to new ideas, innovative products and exposure to current trends in the tourism sector.
At market places like ITB Berlin, it is an opportunity for all stakeholders in the tourism industry to meet and interact while networking and developing partnerships. The business to business model enhances the chances for the private sector to enhance their chances for more business.
We have made significant investments in improving and enhancing the visitor experience as well as infrastructure development across the country which we will be showcasing at ITB Berlin. Kenya is a destination on many travellers’ bucket list.