Investors follow the allure of cultural tourism to grow revenues

Carolyne Anami, the proprietor of Afrika Kenya Village in Mtwapa town within Kilifi County stands at the entrance of a Masai traditional manyata as part of cultural tourism, January 12, 2017. [PHOTO BY GIDEON MAUNDU/STANDARD].
One of Kenya’s untapped tourism attraction is its cultural allure. Tourism stakeholders now say the country should tap into its cultural diversities and market them to enthusiastic travellers to grow revenue.

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (Kahc) Coast Branch Executive Officer, Mr Sam Ikwaye said over reliance on traditional products such as beach, safari and now conference tourism is seen as offering narrow prospects for growth.

“All players agree that there is need for diversification of tourism products and services with deeper involvement of locals and communities,” Ikwaye said.

He said Kenya and especially the coastal region is experiencing changing demographics, shifting travel patterns and volatile economic conditions that are increasing the pressure on industry stakeholders to develop effective campaigns and business strategies.

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 “Therefore, communities and Kenyan cultural and heritage attractions are increasingly seen as one of the future cornerstones of tourism development. There are existing cultural and heritage attractions and the potential thereof for tourism cultural tourism in Kenya which is still underutilised in tour,” the official said.

Television actress, Caroline Anami in efforts to promote diverse Kenyan culture has put up a theme Kenyan village known as Kenya Afrika Village at Mtomondoni overlooking the scenic Mtwapa creek within Kilifi County. “In my very small way I deemed it fit to establish this theme village that offers accommodation on modernised traditional Kenyan dwellings,”’ she told Weekend Business.

At the village there is a home for inhabitants of Kenya’s Rift Valley (Enkang Ole Mumeita), Central (Thingira rwa Ndenderu), Nyanza (Od Budho), Western (Isimba ya Anami) and the Coast (Nyumba ya Ngolo).

“I have overtime watched our cultural values and traditions get eroded through copying of western culture and saw it fit to come up with a village to depict our traditions,’’ Anami who invested over Sh5 million to construct the theme village said. But Ikwaye feels that more needs to be done to help harness from cultural tourism. “We require a comprehensive research to better understand the expectations of travellers,” he said.

Veteran hotelier and Chief Executive Officer of Nairobi based Clarion Hotel, Mr Robert Kinyua states that for a long time, destination Kenya has been a popular tourist destination courtesy of natural attractions, historic sites, sunny beaches and abundant wildlife. “However, for a destination that has been frequently visited by many clients from the major source markets with repeaters taking a bigger proportion, diversification is necessary to keep the destination competitive,’’ Kinyua said.

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“Kenya’s 42 ethnic groups have all along exhibited rich cultural heritage but the same has always been taken for granted and restricted to entertainment for special groups at the airports or daily evening animation programmes for resort establishment but the same had never been considered a worthy commercial activity,” he added. He explains that from the Swahili and Mijikenda culture at the Kenyan Coast to the Bull fights in Western region and Boran and Somali dances in the Eastern and Northern Kenya, all these are unique attractions that will boost tourism.

Kenya Tourism Board on its part says that for a long time, many people have identified the cities, beaches and wilderness of Kenya as being some of the best in Africa. KTB says that an alternative now exists. “Villages in Kenya are the perfect places to get introduced to local culture and lifestyle,” the marketing agency said.

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