Deputy President William Ruto has asked the tourism sector to review its marketing strategy as part of the efforts to attract more tourists into the country.
He said there was need to make a decisive and strategic change in direction to ensure that the country’s tourism unlocks its maximum potential.
Mr Ruto said Kenya could triple earnings from tourism if the right marketing strategy, which is the persuasive element, was used to promote the sector by reaching out to the potential tourists.
“I want to challenge the ministry and the Kenya Tourism Board to pay attention to marketing in particular because that is the persuasive element of the strategy,” said Mr Ruto.
He added: “It is marketing that will get us our rightful consideration among potential tourists and help us realize our rightful numbers.”
Speaking during the launch of the National Tourism Blueprint 2030 and the National Wildlife Strategy 2030, on Tuesday evening, in Nairobi, the Deputy President said Kenya’s rich biodiversity forms the base of the country’s global competitiveness as a tourism destination.
He said the country’s tourism earnings registered double digit growth last year to hit Sh 120billion, representing a 20 per cent rise from the year before (2016).
Mr Ruto said international arrivals grew by 9.8 per cent outpacing the global average of seven per cent as reported in the World Tourism Report published by the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
“However, we cannot celebrate these numbers. We have room for growth and we expect this ministry to deliver year on year. Last year, we had 1.47 million visitors, this year we need to surpass that number,” said Mr Ruto.
He said global tourism was a cutthroat business and extremely competitive that needed a drastic change to make the country an African and global tourism powerhouse.
“There are countries in Africa that attract up to seven times the number of tourists we do with fewer and less stunning attractions than we have,” he said.
He added: “This is why it is marketing that will get us our rightful consideration among potential tourists and help us realize our rightful numbers.”
The Deputy President said few countries, and possibly none, could match the abundance and variety of wildlife and birdlife available in Kenya, citing majestic beasts such as elephants and rhinos to antelopes, fish, insects and plants, including corals.
He said the country’s biological diversity and natural heritage ‘is in one word- wondrous’.
“We therefore need to take tourism in our country to a whole new level and harness the huge potential this area holds to grow our economy,” he said.
Mr Ruto said the Government has also ensured adequate security and developed infrastructure to promote tourism.
Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, Governor Samuel Lenolkulal (Samburu), Principal Secretary, Margaret Mwakima, US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec, UK High Commissioner to Kenya Nic Hailey were also present.
Mr Ruto, at the same time, said in the spirit of devolution, county governments have a critical role to play in the success of the tourism and wildlife strategy to protect habitats, ecosystems so as to maintain its purity for current and future generations.
He said the national government would develop a close structured engagement with the counties to ensure appropriate integrated planning that includes wildlife conservation as a land use at county level.
“This strategy emphasizes awareness and education as solutions for human wildlife conflict,” said Mr Ruto.
He said education would also help eliminate conflicting sectoral policies among different state actors and ensure adequate financial support to our conservation agenda.
The Deputy President asked the ministry to establish an inter-ministerial council that would provide appropriate cross-sectoral consultations, particularly on proposed developments in wildlife areas.
Mr Balala said the ministry would realign its activities to the market demands as one way of attracting international and domestic tourists into the country.
“Innovation and change of marketing strategy are critical for the development of the tourism sector,” said Mr Balala.
He said the ministry would work closely with the county governments, private sector, communities, landowners and individuals, as they were central to the success of the strategy.
“Our future is in our hands. This strategy provides us with the roadmap to that future we desire. We are committed to making this sector attractive to international and local tourists,” he said.
Governor Lenolkulal said county governments would work together with the national government in marketing tourism to boost the industry.
Ambassadors Godec and Hailey assured Kenya of their countries support in the development of the tourism sector, which greatly contributes to the country’s GDP.
Ambassador Godec praised the efforts being undertaken by Kenya to protect its wildlife from human poaching that had threatened the survival of the sector.
Mr Hailey said tourists who visit Kenya become ambassadors of the country when they returned to their respective nations, calling for more concerted efforts in improving the tourism sector.
“Those who come to Kenya go back to their countries as ambassadors of this country. You, therefore, as a country need to protect your wildlife to attract more tourists here,” said Ambassador Hailey.
The National Tourism Blueprint 2030 is anchored on four pillars that include product strategy, marketing strategy, investment promotion and infrastructure strategy.