A country famed for the stamina and resilience of its athletes, Kenya and its MICE industry has been digging deep in the marathon effort to beat Covid, as we hear from director business development services at Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), Geoffrey K. Thande.
Kenya’s conference tourism sector, like most business sectors around the world, has been greatly affected during the Covid-19 pandemic. What was a usually vibrant industry commanding a major economic impact for the economy has been highly affected.
The industry was the first out in Kenya and will probably be the last industry to return in terms of business and operations.
Again, like most major in-person events around the world that were cancelled since March, those booked at KICC and in Kenya at large were no exception.
The situation led the government in Nairobi to develop a new tourism recovery strategy. It is a strategy that includes hospitality, events and meetings industry safety protocols and programmes to support the recovery of the industry. It is designed to cushion the sector from the adverse effects of the pandemic.
The Kenyan government rolled out an economic stimulus programme in the form of a presidential address on 23 May 2020. It was an eight-point Economic Stimulus Programme which injected KS3bn (US$27m) to Kenya’s Tourism Finance Corporation for soft loans to hotels and MICE establishments, designed to help the tourism sector weather the pandemic.
The government has been further engaging MICE venues in the country to develop Covid-19 contingency plans.
The country’s MICE industry is also set to embark on aggressive marketing campaigns incorporating safety messages as a recovery strategy to bring back international conferences and events to the country as travel and tourism slowly picks up.
The sector is now adapting to the safe hosting of hybrid events and physical meetings, with full adherence to safety protocols.
The KICC Board and management, for its part, has re-strategised and innovated new products as a way to supplement traditional conferencing solutions that have been hard hit by the pandemic.
The new products include; Advertising at the KICC tower block, an online KICC gift shop, and organising and hosting of hybrid events.
Advertising at the KICC tower block is already bringing in revenue to the centre.
Cancellations and postponement of events due to the pandemic are calculated to have led to a loss of over KS800m of revenue to the centre, and that does not include revenues that the country would have accrued in terms of the economic ripple effect from the international conferences the destination would have hosted. Indeed, we have had to be innovative to stay afloat during these challenging times.
Among the big postponed events in 2020 was the World Travel Awards Africa & Indian Ocean Gala ceremony that the KICC had won and which had been scheduled for October 2020. That has now been postponed to 2021. The event will now not only be an awards show but also a platform for Kenya’s entire MICE industry and tourism sector to come together to showcase and demonstrate that the country is once again open for business.
It must be remembered that KICC is a parastatal body mandated to market Kenya’s conference tourism globally and has worked hard over the years to ensure that Kenya retains its position as a most preferred destination for business events in Africa. We will continue to do this.