MICE –Meetings, Incentive group travel, Conferences and Exhibitions.
For a while now Kenya has been one of the most popular Mice destinations in Africa and the only country that has beaten it for the top spot is South Africa. Nairobi especially has always been in high demand hosting various meeting, conferences and delegations from different countries that took advantage of heir visits to explore Kenya and visit renown game parks. and other tourist sites.
However this very lucrative branch of tourism has also been affected by Kenya’s recent trouble just like the rest of the tourism industry. According to a report published in Kenya’s economic survey, growth in the MICE subsector of tourism fell by 4.5% in 2013. Looking at
numbers, from 2010 t0 2013; in 2010 the Kenya hosted a record of 2783 MICE events which increased to 3304 in 2011, 3,666 in 3012, but decreased to 3,148 in 2013. .MICE business is one of the most profitable business sectors not just in Kenya but in East Africa. It contributes quite heavily to Kenya’s tourism industry and in turn the country’s GDP. But because of the negative publicity in terms of tours and travel that Kenya has been receiving due to its tragic security woes, this sector of business has been on a downward performance slide. Not even big celebration and holiday periods such as Easter and public holidays like the recent Labour Day have been a boost for the sector. Reports that hotels and resorts barely registered an increase in demand during the Easter season have cemented the fact that travelers are paying attention to the news feed and many are looking for alternative spots and adventures such as Tanzania safaris rather than the usual Kenya safaris. Many hotels both on the coast and inland are struggling to stay in business. Some have resorted to laying off workers because paying salaries from their dwindling cash flows is very challenging.
According to some industry observers, much as the slump in MICE tourism is result of the very challenges that have led to a decline in the Kenya tourism sector as a whole, it is in part attributed to the lack of a national convention centre at the cost of Kenya. A number of proposals have been made to construct such centers in the coastal town – Mombasa and an inland one in Kisumu. MICE tourism is basically a market for hotels and resorts and it is better for hotels that have conference halls, and other facilities that are convenient for group visits. So where the country is lacking convention centres in various parts, good hotels with good conference hall facilities have been benefitting.
Kenya is set to host a couple of big events this month, the Kenya hospitality trade show, and the 2014 hotel summit East Africa. Hopefully this will be an opportunity to talk about the issues that are causing the tourism slump in Kenya and also to come up with solutions and a way forward to rescue Kenya’s tourism.