Balala challenges tourism industry players to review strategy post Covid-19

Tourism and Wildlife CS Najib Balala has tasked the Kenya Tourism Board(KTB) to formulate new marketing strategies that can guarantee the tourism sectors future.

This comes at a time when the government is set to pump in  more than Sh7 billion to breathe life into the industry hard hit by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“When you look at propaganda going on around us, that is not marketing. We assume we market Kenya, that is the problem. KTB needs to overhaul their own strategy to market this country,” Balala said, affirming government support for the board.

KTB which is led by CEO Betty Radier has traditionally mainly depended on familiarisation trips, roadshows and international events to market the country to the world, where beach and Safari have been key products.

“We cannot continue marketing products the old fashion. We can’t be doing the same things we used to do before, we need to do different things,” Balala said.

The CS has also tasked the newly formed Kenya National Convention Bureau (KNCB) to formulate strategies that will see the country tap into future Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE).

Led by  Jacinta Nzioka, the the bureau is tasked with marketing the country as a MICE destination and bidding for major international conferences.

“I know it is the wrong time now but we need to be prepared. I am glad we have already appointed the National Convention Bureau and it is working, so the time it opens up, you should be ready with your strategies,” Balala said.

Kenya Utalii College, which has been struggling to raise money for operations, has also been challenged to overhaul its curriculum and adopt modern ways of teaching, including technology.

“Utalii College needs to wake up and do another training, the skilling must be different.It cannot be the same way that we used to train people from 1970s,” Balala said.

Investors in the sector have also been challenged to upgrade their facilities, mainly those with old hotels and lodges.

“You cannot own a hotel that is 30-40 years old and the only investment you have done is a coat of paint. We need to re-invest in some of these products,” the CS said.

Balala spoke in Nairobi on Tuesday when he received the National Tourism Crisis Steering Committee Report on the ‘impact of Covid-19 on tourism industry in Kenya’, that will guide the recovery of tourism industry.

Kenya has lost 50 per cent of total annual tourism earnings due to the coronavirus pandemic, he said , translating to Sh81.8 billion, based on last last year’s revenues where the sector generated Sh163.6 billion.

National Treasury CS Ukur Yatani in his  June 11, budget statement announced a raft of measures to support the recovery of the tourism sector hard hit by Covid-19 as hotels remain closed with millions of jobs on the line.

Yatani announced a temporary lifting of the ban to hold meetings in private hotels by government agencies and waiver of landing and parking fees at airports to facilitate movement of cargo, in and out of Kenya.

“Government will scale up efforts to boost the tourism sector by promoting aggressive post Covid-19 tourism marketing and providing support for hotel refurbishment through soft loans to be channeled through the Tourism Finance Corporation,” Yatani said.

Sh3 billion has been set aside to support renovation of facilities and the restructuring of business operations by actors in this industry.

The government will also provide grants to 160 community conservancies, and support to Kenya Wildlife Services to engage 5,500 community scouts for a period of one year, in a Sh2 billion budget.

Sh2.5 billion has also been set aside for the Tourism Promotion Fund (TPF) and Sh3.8 billion for the Tourism Fund.

National Tourism Crisis Steering Committee, gazetted in March, has finalised a comprehensive study and produced a report on recovery strategy for the sector.

According to the committee, chaired by Chief Administrative Secretary Joseph Boinnet, the  country has the potential to net 860,000 international visitors in the medium-term if the economy opens up in July.

The sector can potentially attract 615,000 tourists within six months if domestic, regional and global travel opens up in September, and 450,000 if normalcy resumes in December.

Source: The Star