Despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic which has forced notable travel events to either cancel or postpone holding the programmes, the Kenyan Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions industry is experiencing a seeming growth in the sector with 16% tourist arrival for business tourism already recorded.
Speaking at the 4th African Travel and Tourism Conference, with topic: “Is MICE a Viable Pathway For Tourism Recovery in Africa” and the first Pan-African virtual expo successfully hosted by Akwaaba African Travel Market, the CEO of Kenya Convention Bureau, Jacinta Nzioka revealed that the East African country recorded the numbers in the past one month which is equal to figure obtained before the pandemic.
She stated that Kenya had reopened domestic travel in mid-June, while international flights resumed on August 1, adding that Kenya was one of the first to launch COVID-19 safety protocols.
According to her, the country has also suffered it share of loss with as much as 97 events cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although some had been rescheduled, while others were hosted virtually. However, the KNCB, according to Jacinta has already plotted a roadmap up to 2030.
She also revealed that the MICE sector is which has huge economic potentials is expanding to other cities in the country with Mombasa now at 13th position in Africa as a MICE destination while Nairobi and the country is seated at the top 5 position for the past three years.
Jacinta Nzioka in her presentation at the Pan-African event said:
“The business of MICE in Kenya has come a long way; it is a business that has sustained the destination (Kenya). We have held some big conferences and summits in the destination in the recent past. And these were all very well successful summits, some are association meetings other are governmental meetings. We have continued to engage with our potential and past clients during the pandemic to really see a case of postponement of our meetings and not cancellations like most other destinations.
“So, during this period we have been consolidating and putting together the foundation, like we saw in Rick Taylor’s presentation, Kenya had the first convention centre in Africa which is the Kenya International Convention Centre (KICC), and it is the symbol of Nairobi. In 1964, we were holding World Bank meetings, and the business then was on professional service provision. And there has been exponential growth in MICE facilities in the destination including huge numbers of global hotels chains in Kenya. Currently there are 16,000 rooms, with 4,000 capacities under development especially in key cities. We have also seen newer big conventions centres in the country like Nairobi built around sustainability themes and which is about ensuring effectiveness.
“We have seen our industry really get supported by the leisure part of the business. Kenya is a magical destination and that is why we are magical Kenya. The experiences, exceptional destination appeal, the offerings that we are able to throw in, in any business event or meetings really set us apart from the pack. Nairobi as you know is a huge economic hub of the region with many associations, corporate, and government to government meetings.
“So for us as Kenya National Convention Bureau established towards the end of last year and just we were about setting up COVID happened. But it gave us an opportunity to reflect and do some deep thinking, we have already crafted out road map to 2030, we have being doing capacity building with our staff, we are working very strongly with our private sector who are well formalised in terms of association and supporting them to really grow and professionalise so that they are able to attract more and more association meetings.
“Over the years Kenya has been ranking in the top 5 MICE destination for the past 3 years and Nairobi also ranking in top 5 cities. Mombasa which is our second biggest city now has a strong performance positioning on 13th in Africa, which is a big plus because. We see the trend for secondary cities becoming more and more important so that the destination is able to spread and not just have meeting in one little location. So, that for us is an opportunity which we will continue to seize.
“In the midst of the pandemic and considering the impact, we have gone through our own inventory and it has revealed to us that we have had 97 events cancelled for 2020. And most of those events have been postponed, others have already been held virtually although not as effective as it should have been with face to face meetings. We all agree that face to face can never be replaced but we see that travel restrictions and border closures are starting to open.
“For us in the month of August which is the first month that international travel was opened, we collated our data and we are happy to report that 16% of the arrivals still came for business travel, Mice, Conference, Events and this is very encouraging because we see this trend as equivalent to what it was before. What we discovered is that visiting friends and relatives topped, before it used to be people travelling on holidays which is understandable because are now coming back home with their loved ones. But now our destination is open for travel, when you are arrive into the country with a negative COVID certificate there will be no quarantine. We have also identified some long term impact like many other destinations where companies are now working on reduction of cost. We are encouraging our industry on acceleration on ICT because of its effectiveness, to start monetising hybrid events because we cannot wait until all the markets are fully opened.