|Article by Ogova Ondego
Published March 17, 2008
Driven by the fear of having lost 60% of her much needed revenue from tourism in the first quarter of 2008 due to the violence that erupted in the country following the disputed presidential poll in December 2007, Kenya sent a high-powered delegation to the International Tourism Bourse in Berlin, Germany (March 5-9, 2008), to seduce and lure international tourists back to to the golden sunsets, glistening star-filled skies, milk-white sandy beaches and the rich tropical flora and fauna of the East African nation. But tourism being highly sensitive to any threat to the safety and security of the traveller, reports from the German capital indicate that Kenya proved hard to sell. OGOVA ONDEGO writes.
Rather than sit back in self pity and brood about the misfortune that have fallen her, Kenya has set aside some US$2.9 million to help resuscitate the country’s ailing tourism sector by marketing its tourism potential among key nations like Germany, the USA and the UK.
The country is also targeting domestic tourists through favourable hotel and airline packages.
Some establishments have published special discounted rates not just for residents of Kenya but also for the entire East Africa.
Some of the offers for accommodation are as low as US$58 per person at the Kenyan coast, US$62 at Amboseli, US$89 at Laikipia and US$70 at Masai Mara.
While flying packages for two nights range from US$376 and US$439, a three-night flying package goes for US$474-US$562.
The slump in the tourism sector, following the boom the country experienced in 2007, may be quite disheartening. In 2007, Kenya earned US$934.3 million from the one million tourists who visited the country as opposed to the US$802.9 million generated by 954,335 tourists in 2006. It had been expected that the tourism sector would be on an upswing before the post-election violence marred it.
On March 17, 2008, President Mwai Kibaki created a 15-member state corporation, the Brand Kenya Board, to market Kenya to the world.
Among other duties, “the body is mandated to create and maintain the Kenya brand to identify and distinguish the country’s products, services and concepts” and also to establish “an integrated approach within Government and the private sector towards the international marketing of Kenya,” according to a press statement from the Presidential Press Service.
The Brand Kenya Board is expected “to establish a brand for Kenya which will position the country optimally in terms of investment, credit-worthiness, tourism and international relations.”
According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the future of the businesses that cater to travellers–airlines, travel agencies, hotels, resorts and related sectors–otherwse known as tourism industry, is on a steady growth globally.
From about 70 million international tourists annually in the 1960s and 500 million in the 1990s, the figure has ballooned beyond any one’s wilsest imagination in the first decade of the 21st century and many businesses, even those not directly connected to tourism are reaping bounty harvests from it.
Tourism-Review.Com reports that “World Travel & Tourism is expected to generate close to US$8 trillion in 2008, rising to approximately US$15 trillion over the next ten years.”
According to the latest Tourism Satellite Accounting (TSA) research by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and its strategic partner, 2008 will experience a slow down due to “the global economic downturn, with its annual growth rate experiencing a slowdown in 2008, to 3%, in comparison to 3.9% in 2007.”
After this slow down, 2009-2018 will experience a “steady phase of growth…averaging a growth rate of 4.4% per annum, supporting 297 million jobs and 10.5% of global GDP.”
The TSA predicts a bright future for the tourism sector, saying it will experience “continued strong expansion in emerging countries “both as tourism destinations and as an increasing source of international visitors.”
While Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East are set to experience a 5.9%, 5.7% and 5.2% annual growth, respectively, the mature markets such as the Americas and Europe, will experience a slower growth rate at 2.1% and 2.3 % respectively.
“Even in countries where economic growth slows,” Tourism-Review.Com says, “there is likely to be a switch from international to domestic travel rather than a contraction in demand for Travel & Tourism.”
Among the 176 countries covered in the TSA research, the United States is the largest Travel & Tourism economy, with its total demand accounting for more than US$1,747 billion in 2008.
China is set to jump from fourth to second position above Japan and Germany in 2008. By 2018, China’s Travel & Tourism Demand will grow four-fold, accounting for US$2,465 billion, with an annual growth rate of 8.9%.
But hardly any coutry ever looks at the flip side of tourism. Over the years, Kenyans living in tourism-rich areas have accused the government of appearing to value wildlife more than humans. Here, no one is allowed to kill wildlife even when the latter that destroy crops and kill and maim humans. A lion in Kenya was said to be worth US$7,000 annually in terms of revenue from tourism while a herd of elephants was valued at US$610,000 per year in 2005. It may therefore be clear why aggrieved Maasai, Meru or Luyia people may accuse the government of treating them like a liability even as it treats wildlife as an invaluable asset.
But Awake! magazine quotes An Introduction to Tourism by Leonard J Lickorish and Carson L Jenkins that tourism has been identified from almost every country in the world as being the main cause of environmental degradation.
“In India, the Taj Mahal is suffering wear and tear from visitors,” Awake! quotes Lickorish and Jenkins as having said. “In Egypt, the pyramids are also threatened by large numbers of visitors.”
Furthermore, Awake! says, “uncontrolled tourism can kill or stunt vegetation when hordes of visitors tramp through conservation areas…species can be endangered when tourists collect rare seashells and coral or when local residents gather these items to sell to tourists.”
Tourists, Awake! says, consume a disproportionate amount of resources at the expense of local inhabitants. For instance, the magazine quotes James Mak’s Tourism and the Economy as saying that “Tourists in Grenada consume seven times as much water as residents” and that “…tourism accounts for 40 percent of total energy consumed in Hawaii, although on average only one out of every eight people in Hawaii is a tourist.”
Besides the inordinate amount of pollution–an average of one kilogramme of solid waste and litter each day per tourist, according to a 2005 survey by the United Nations Environment Programme–the World Bank estimates that only about 45% of the revenue raised by tourism reaches the host country. Most of the money, Awake! says, “floods back to the developed nations by way of overseas tour operators and foreign-owned accommodations.”
Local tour operators at the Kenya coast are caling upon the coalition government of Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to put a stop to holiday package tours arranged from the developed nations as they tend to benefit the latter at the expense of the former.
Also coming in for criticism is the watering down of local cultural values by tourism.
“Often tourists today feel free of restraint, so they engage in activities that they would not share in if they were at home around family and friends…Worldwide concern is growing over the effects tourism on child prostitution.”
In 2007, the then tourism minister in Kenya, Morris Dzoro, received numerous complaints from aggrieved parents at the Kenyan coast about their children being lured into child prostitution rings that they said operated from villas and five-star hotels that are patronised by tourists. Dzoro had promised to take up the issue with tour operators and hoteliers but little was ever heard about it as parliament was disslved in preparation for the much discredited general elections on December 27, 2007.