Recently, Kenya marked 10 years since our supreme law was promulgated and Bomas of Kenya featured prominently as the place where our Constitution was conceived, created and compiled. Because of this historical connection, many Kenyans associate Bomas of Kenya with the nation’s reform journey but few know that it is a public institution that was mooted in 1971 for the sole purpose of preserving, maintaining, educating and promoting the diverse cultures of various ethnic groups in Kenya. For the last five decades, the institution remains the leading custodian of Kenya’s diverse cultures as a national heritage for prosperity and posterity.
Why is culture important to us as a nation? The framers of our Constitution underlined the critical importance of culture in a progressive society and that is why Article 11 of the Constitution recognises culture as the foundation of the nation and as the cumulative civilisation of the Kenyan people.
With the current growing interest in cultural heritage globally, growth in cultural tourism has increased a positive worldview of the importance of cultural resources as tools for creating economic development while preserving cultural resources. As a nation, therefore, it is incumbent upon us to devise innovative ways of promoting all forms of national and cultural expression through literature, the arts, traditional celebrations, science, communication, information, mass media, publications, libraries and other cultural heritage.
But even as immense opportunities for growth beckon with cultural tourism being the economic magnet, the negative impact of Covid-19 has slammed brakes on this promising development. The pandemic has taken the whole world by storm, bringing it to a virtual socio-economic standstill.
Kenya is not an exception and one of the economic sectors most hard hit is the travel and tourism industry. That is hardly surprising given that a record 1.5 billion tourists travelled internationally in 2019.
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The outbreak of the disease and its rapid spread across the globe has seen heightened uncertainty in the sector as travellers require up-to-date and reliable information before deciding on their next destinations and itineraries. The major disruptions on the global economy from the transmission of the virus especially to the travel and tourism industry are immeasurable.
Nonetheless, tourism remains Kenya’s top foreign exchange earner hence one of the country’s economic mainstays. The industry depends on people and as we rethink how to make it sustainable in the post Covid-19 phase, local communities will be critical in this paradigm shift. This is why we must pool our resources and promote cultural tourism to boost the country’s domestic tourism prospects now that international travel has taken a dip due to the pandemic.
Such a move will not only trigger the process of reviving the dwindling fortunes of the sector, but will also foster unity and national cohesion amongst the Kenyan communities. In the words of Tourism Principal Secretary Safina Kwekwe, time has come now for State authorities to focus on the interface between tourism, culture, conservation and the use of natural resources for sustainable livelihoods. There is no better institution that can play a pivotal role in the development and promotion of cultural tourism than Bomas of Kenya.
As the country prepares for a post coronavirus phase, let us strategically embark on promoting local tourism through our cultural heritage and to expand our attraction sites.
I am certain that having been confined to our homes over the last seven months, Kenyan families in western Kenya will be enthusiastic to learn the cultures of their counterparts in the coastal region and the other way round. It is important that the practices of our various communities are preserved, maintained and promoted for the sake of future generations through our cultural resources preservation and management policies.
One way of improving our nationhood to have young people learn, experience and appreciate the rich diverse cultural values of various ethnic groups in the country.
Indeed, Vision 2030’s Social Pillar talks of building a just and cohesive society that enjoys equitable social development in a clean and secure environment - a good living ground for unity and national cohesion.
Our constitution in addition recognises the role of science and indigenous technologies in the development of the nation and the need to promote the intellectual property rights of the people of Kenya.
This noble realisation will best be achieved when we all roll up our sleeves to promote cultural tourism to boost Kenya’s sustainable development in the post Covid-19 phase.
-Mr Gitaa is the head of Bomas of Kenya. [email protected]