Hoteliers and tour operators have supported the formation of a Kenya National Convention and Exhibition Bureau saying it will give the emerging segment personalised attention.
They say the establishment of the bureau would boost the Meetings, Incentives, Conference and Exhibitions (MICE) sub-sector in the country. In recent years, Nairobi has been attracting international conferences including the Global Entrepreneurship Summit and the World Trade Organisation ministerial conference.
Other high-profile meetings, which were held in the city included the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) and United Nation Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Turning Nairobi into a conference hub could lift international tourist arrivals and help create jobs as well as spur economic growth.
Heritage Hotels chief executive officer Mohamed Hersi said the formation of a Kenya National Convention and Exhibition Bureau was long overdue.Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala (centre) Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers Chairman Jaydeep Vohra (left) and Mohamed Hersi, the Chairman, Kenya Coast Tourism Association FILE PHOTO | NMG
The Bureau, he added, if given the necessary support could help attract more regional and international conventions in the country and boost
“The formation of a convention and exhibition bureau is a step in the right direction as the body will focus on promoting MICE for the country to benefit from the lucrative industry,” he said.
Mr Hersi who is also the Kenya Coast Tourism Association (KCTA) said the Bureau would be able to bid for international conventions for the country to attract more international meetings.
However, the KCTA official said the holding of conventions and exhibitions should be spread out to other counties rather than focusing much on Nairobi.
“We would wish to see international conventions being hosted in Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and other parts of the country so that other towns can benefit from MICE,” he said.
He added that there is need for the bureau to work hand in hand with the 47 county governments to push the MICE agenda.
The counties, he said, have got their own budgets for tourism, adding that if supported by the bureau they could play a role in promoting MICE.
Mr Hersi said all the counties should have convention centres for them to attract meetings and exhibitions.
“It is unfortunate that although Mombasa is the country’s tourism hub it lacks a public convention centre thereby denying the resort town the opportunity to host big meetings,” he said.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast branch executive officer Sam Ikwaye also supported the formation of the convention and exhibition bureau.
He said the bureau would position Kenya as an ideal destination for holding conferences and enable the country land more conventions.
He said the bureau would harness MICE and make the country overcome the overreliance on beach and safari products.
“Tourism in the country can fully recover if we embrace MICE as conferences and exhibitions draw large number of participants,” he said.
“One convention can help fill up several hotels apart from benefiting such industries as transport, manufacturing and agriculture among others.”
International participants attending conventions, he added, also go on safari thereby creating business to lodges and camps in the national parks and game reserves.
Former Kenya Association of Tour Operators (Kato) Coast branch chairperson Monika Solanki said for the country to succeed in MICE it was important for the country to have the bureau.
But she, like Mr Hersi, emphasised the need for the bureau to spread out the conference opportunities to other towns across the country rather bringing all big meetings to Nairobi.
Early this year, the PrideInn Group unveiled a Sh3.1 billion hotel and convention centre at Shanzu giving Mombasa a conference tourism boost.
The new hotel and convention centre has 300 rooms with 600 bed capacity.
The resort has conference facilities with a sitting capacity of 2,500 people, which is key to attracting big ticket events.
“We invested heavily in constructing more than 10 conference rooms and banquet centre in Mombasa to tap on MICE through hosting local and internationals meetings,” PrideInn Group managing director Hasnain Noorani said.
Mr Noorani said that the property would host the SKAL World Congress in 2018.
“We are also bidding for 10 more international conventions and meetings as part of efforts to promote Mombasa as a conf