Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala. PHOTO/KTB
By JOYCE KAZUNGU
Kenya has the potential to propel it into a leading tourism destination in Africa, new director of the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), Mr Bobby Kamani, has said.
Mr Kamani says Kenya’s tourism is more than more than just the Maasai Mara and its idyllic beaches at the coast and time to start promoting tourism attractions in the rest of the country has come.
“Kenya is more than just a safari and beach destination, it is more than the Masai Mara and Diani. With our ever-growing reliable road network, we should be promoting the rest of Kenya from Homa Bay to Turkana, to Kitale to the Chalbi Desert,” he told reporters.
Mr Kamani one of the five independent directors appointed to the Board of KTB, is the only member who comes from a hospitality background, thus bridging the gap between the private sector and the government.
He says he envisions a greater and more profitable way to exploit the country as a tourism resource while making efforts to decarbonise our footprint, especially considering Kenya’s modernised road network.
He said he will be fronting for an “open-skies policy” for both Nairobi and Mombasa to ease accessibility at affordable rates. Besides our national carrier, “Qatar, KLM, Emirates, Ethiopian and Turkish airlines can each connect Kenya to 125 countries and over 320 cities,” the tourism and hospitality guru says.
Mr Kamani said JKIA needs to be modernised and brought up to international standards so as to improve the arrival and departure experience of all travellers. Kamani further suggested that a 49 per cent shareholding may be sold to a reliable partner who will invest in the airport including a second runway.
“We can also create incentives for domestic and regional flights across Kenya and within EAC to make it easier and more affordable for domestic and regional travel”, he explained.
Mr Kamani also has his eyes fixed on the re-modelling and relaunching of KICC which he says can be done through a public-private partnership.
“KICC did well under the leadership of Nana Gecaga and is now under the very able leadership of Fatma Muses. Whilst it is still a unique design structure with plenty of land, a lot can be achieved,” he added.
He said that it would make sense to enter into a deal with a private partner to build, operate and later transfer an adjoining 4 star anchor conference hotel with 250 rooms, which would result in a buzzing KICC and would undoubtedly revive the CBD including the heritage hotels in the heart of the city. “With the new Nairobi expressway, access to and from JKIA is now a breeze. Fix the CBD to make it more pedestrian friendly and bring back the nightlife,” he added.
Mr Kamani is also gravely concerned about wildlife conservation and states that this cannot be left to the mercy of park fees. He suggests that the government should set up a trust whose main role is to solicit and raise funds for conservation all year round.
“Many philanthropists will happily contribute to a transparent trust. We should also reserve 2 or 3 board seats for the likes of international organisations like National Geographic and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature in order to promote confidence in the donors contributing to the trust,” he said. He explained that this would be a stop gap measure for when tourist numbers drop and funds for conservation are jeopardised.
New director of the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), Mr Bobby Kamani. PHOTO/KTB
He further suggested the promotion of medical tourism which he says can be explored by attracting and bringing affordable hospitals that are already operating in other parts of the world and localise such destinations in areas such as Diani. He said this would be one of the ways of eradicating the hurdles faced by investors in the health sector.
On sports tourism he said the country “must leverage formally on the success of our athletes.” “We can set up state of the art high altitude training centres for runners and position ourselves to host professional league football clubs from around the world”.
Mr Kamani also suggests that land which is not in use can be donated and serious investors can be invited to set up modern Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Exhibitions (MICE) centres in Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Eldoret which should also include modern stadiums.
“For example, in Mombasa, Shimo la Tewa prison and Shanzu Teachers College are sitting on huge tracts of land which are currently not being utilised effectively. Any developer would be delighted to be shareholders of such a project”, he suggests.
He said the tourism industry can seek investment to modernise Kenya Utalli College and bring it up to par with international hospitality institutions including opening satellite branches across the country in Kisumu, Kilifi, Eldoret, Nakuru and Meru.
He said that he is looking forward to working closely with the Government of Kenya, the Ministry of Tourism and together with the support of the able leadership of KTB Madam Chairlady Joanne Mwangi-Yelbert.
In his capacity, Mr Kamani said he will strive to assist KTB in accomplishing its functions and strive to develop, implement and co-ordinate a national tourism marketing strategy which would market Kenya at local, national, regional and international levels as a premier tourist destination. The industry needs to invest in marketing as the only way to compete with other key destinations. At least 15 per cent of tourism earnings can be allocated each year to marketing. He stated that identification of tourism marketing needs and trends is necessary and digital marketing will be at the forefront of KTB’s agenda.
“The yet to open cruise terminal in Mombasa must be put to work and port tours with private floating hotels and restaurants anchored at the terminal are very do-able,” he said. Now that Mombasa is once again an island, tours around the island will be possible, a port is not just about containers.
Mr Kamani also envisions a radical change in the ease of doing business in the tourism sector. He is of the opinion that there are too many licenses which need to be obtained to run an establishment. These permits and licenses can easily be consolidated, for example a hotel requires more than 23 separate licenses to operate.
The new KTB director holds an MSC in International Management and Corporate Governance from King’s College London. He is the Managing Director of Zuri Group Global, a multi-national conglomerate with interests in hospitality, real estate and floriculture.
He has been the Chairman of Young Presidents’ Organisation (YPO) in the past and continues to be a member since 2010. He is an executive committee member of the Nairobi Polo Club (NPC) and the Kyuna Neighbours Association (KNA).