By Joy Ruo
According to statistics released earlier this year, Kenya’s 2018 tourist arrivals grew by 37.33 percent from the previous year to cross the two million mark for the first time, posting significant growth in earnings to Sh157 billion compared to Sh119 billion earned in 2017.
The statistics also showed that there were over 2,025,206 international tourist arrivals. However, the statistics on domestic tourism pointed to only a paltry 9% increase.
Domestic tourism in Kenya is a field that the industry players ought to tap into more to increase revenue as it holds huge potential and its importance for economic development cannot be underestimated.
Many Kenyans prefer to travel to international destinations over local destinations while some do not travel at all. This is while keeping in mind that every time we travel and buy outside the country we are inadvertently taking away the economic growth we could be retaining in our country.
I believe that we need to package local tourism better and market it to our own local market to not only sustain the volatile sector but also provide opportunities for locals to explore their country.
It’s therefore important for tourism industry players including the government to unite and realize the potential of domestic tourism. As the industry grows, more local businesses will thrive and as a result more employment opportunities will be unlocked.
There are various ways of that we can tap into to improve the uptake of domestic tourism in Kenya.
Infrastructure in Kenya is a key detractor to domestic tourism. With road transport being the key mode of transport, many road networks where tourist attraction sites are located need proper upgrades. This also involves the constructing new routes in those places where it is non-existent. Infrastructure upgrades should not only be focused on road networks but also railways, airstrips and airports.
For example, accessing the Masai Mara Game reserve where the 7th wonder of the world is found still remains a challenge today due to poor road networks.
Kenya’s Safari and beach experience are some of the world’s most spectacular travel experiences and have put Kenya on the global map.
However, more campaigns should be conducted with a view of educating and familiarizing the locals about available local destinations and the importance of tourism in a society. Also packaged in affordable rates, they will create a desire among the locals to visit and explore more local destinations.
In Kenya, most of the resources allocated to tourism go to marketing of select destinations like the coastal regions and wildlife expeditions. However, there are various other undiscovered tourist destinations around the country. The government should enhance equal distribution of resources to all sectors and regions. This will open up more destinations that will inversely arouse interest among locals.
The tourism and travel sector is one of the most competitive in the world with many organizations trying to outwit each other in selling their countries. The government should provide simpler ways of doing businesses in the sector by lowering taxes on agents who also focus on selling local travel packages.
In Kenya, tourism destinations are either characterized as, beach travel or game drives. This makes local travel repetitive and the reason why during holidays Kenyans flock the coastal regions year in year out. I believe that this is because sensitization on other local destinations has not been properly conducted. We therefore need to come up with new tourism centric products and services that inspire and increase the desire for local tourism.
Some of them include: Ice skating at the Panari Sky Centre, Dolphin swimming at Watamu, the camel derby, beadworks of the Turkana people, tailor-made vacations, sports destinations, cultural tourism and other new tourist attraction avenues.
Recently in Nakuru during a two-day Africa Safari Summit, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said, “We should diversify tourism. We need to have a museum for lions, Maasai culture and Manyatta museums.”
I concur with his statement because it is only when we add value to tourism can we be able to reap the benefits of increased uptake not only internationally but among the locals.
The writer is the founder of JRV Travel