Should we use meetings to market tourism?

Panelists during a session on conference travel at The Magical Kenya Travel Expo.

The latest edition of the Magical Kenya Travel Expo hosted a very insightful discussion on business & conference travel in Africa.

Speakers on the panel included Rick Taylor (CEO, The Business Tourism Company), Dr. Betty Radier (CEO, Kenya Tourism Board), Amanda Kotze-Nlapo (Chief Convention Bureau Officer, South African National Convention Bureau), and Esmare Steinhofel (ICCA Africa Representative). They shared several perspectives on what international meeting buyers look for and what more Kenya and indeed Africa can do to better exploit this lucrative tourism segment. South Africa, for example, last year recorded 211,000 meetings of 50 people or more. The ICCA African Chapter recorded over 360 international association meetings in Africa in 2016, 35% of which were hosted in South Africa.

While Kenya is as yet to set up a National Convention Bureau, the Tourism Ministry has since received recommendations from a task-force that was set up to look into this issue in 2016, and further plans to make it operational are underway. The national body currently tasked with bidding for international meetings and events is the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) which has been in existence since 1973.

On marketing Kenya as a global meeting and conference destination, some top lessons gathered from the session were:

1. Meetings in themselves are exceptionally powerful tools for marketing a destination. Once attendees experience a destination on a business trip, they are 40% more likely to return on holiday with family and friends.

2. In spite of Kenya having been negatively associated with insecurity following political and unfortunate terrorist events, as well as being on the receiving end of unfavourable travel advisories, meetings can indeed be used to conspicuously advocate for safety, as they are ‘controlled environments’.

3. As a destination, Kenya needs to make it easy for meeting buyers to select us. A convention bureau is fundamentally essential as meeting buyers are interested in a helicopter view of a destination.

Speaking to Betty Radier shortly after the panel, she indicated that owing to the investment required, the realization of a national convention bureau is likely to be in financial year  2018/19 or 2019/20.
The Kenya Tourism Board will further engage private sector players through industry associations such as the Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF), the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers as what is needed is for the destination to package itself as a complete MICE brand.

Author: Angela Kariuki,

Did you miss our 2016 Meetings Industry Report? Read it here.



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