The Future Is Bright For Conference Tourism

President Uhuru Kenyatta speaking at the UNCTAD14 conference held earlier this year. (Photo credit: Kenya Herald)

This year, Kenya has possibly recorded her best performance yet in the conferences and meetings space. Following on from successfully hosting high-profile meetings such as the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2015, at the World Travel Awards held earlier this year, Nairobi was recognised as the leading African meeting and conference destination. In the latest International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) world rankings, Kenya additionally ranked as the second most popular meeting destination in Sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya continued to host even more global gatherings this year, including the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD14), the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICADVI) and most recently, the Global Partnership on Effective Development Co-operation’s High-Level Meeting (HLM2).

With an expanding economy that is ripe for investment, Kenya is attracting a great deal of local and global attention as the region’s business hub. This has consequently spurred a significant level of growth in the country’s meetings industry, where trade and business stakeholders meet to promote trade, showcase innovation, exchange knowledge, connect with communities, understand markets and engage with potential business development partners.

As a result, in 2016, Kenya hosted 243 business and professional meetings, consisting of a range of conferences, summits, forums, congresses, conventions, symposiums, exhibitions and expositions. 55% of audiences in these meetings were pooled from the local market and whilst Kenya may have been the destination of choice for the remainder, a further 22% consisted of a pan-African participants, another 15%  of regional Eastern African associates and another 8% composed of international attendees.

The busiest meeting period was recorded between September and November. Top venues in Nairobi included the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), the Safari Park Hotel and the newly opened Radisson Blu Hotel. Popular spots in Mombasa included the Sarova Whitesands Resort and the Leisure Lodge Resort in Diani. Other notable nationwide destinations included Naivasha and Kisumu.

With conference tourism accounting for 27.5% of tourism revenues in 2015, it is now high on the tourism agenda with the Tourism Minister, Hon. Najib Balala having recently appointed a task-force to engage the private sector in the formation of a National Convention Bureau. The Ministry also plans to refurbish and expand the KICC. The government has also invested heavily in new security agencies and confidence is the destination has since been restored, resulting in the lifting of several of the travel advisories imposed upon security attacks in previous years. Kenya has even gone further to re-win the bid to host the Skal World Congress in 2018, after the same conference was suddenly cancelled in 2014. The government has also digitalised visa processes and continues to invest in infrastructure. Several new hotels, inclusive of international brands have also recently opened in the country, with further construction still in the pipeline.

These meetings that Kenya has successfully hosted in this and previous years are an endorsement of the country’s meetings and tourism potential. Looking ahead into 2017, Kenya will be hosting the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) Destination Expo, the Aid & Development Africa Summit, Modern Airports Africa and the Africa Sugar Conference to mention but a few.


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