Currently, Kenya’s tourism product is largely beach and wildlife, and predominantly from the USA and continental Europe, though China, Asia and the middle-East have steadily been growing too.
Diversification of the county’s tourism source markets as well as development of domestic tourism could strengthen the sector and make it more competitive. The increasing diversification of source markets will be served better if the industry can match such diversification with appropriate product development.
The Republic of South Africa, for example, targets to obtain 15 million international arrivals by the year 2020. To achieve this, one of the areas that South Africa is focusing on is the business events industry, in which it has already secured over 200 international conferences, to run over the next five years, bringing to South Africa 300 000 delegates and earning the country an estimated USD 159 million.
In the year 2011, South Africa had 392 000 business travellers, of which 140 000 were Meetings Incentive Conference and Events (MICE) delegates. According to international trends 35-40% of business travellers to any destination are MICE delegates.
The global potential for business meeting and conferences is immense. In 2011, 10 000 Association meetings rotated worldwide. 6,500 of these were regional meetings (European, American, Asian and African Associations) and 3,500 were International Associations meetings.
Africa hosted only 304 (3%) of these meetings, mostly international Association meetings, with South Africa hosting only 86 and still managing to rank 37th globally as a conference and business meeting destination.
While beach and wildlife tourism will likely maintain their positions in the product profile, even the traditional source markets would yield more with increased local product development.
While there continues to exist the need to develop performance in different segments of tourism, development of property and service quality standards is also a key area of concern. For some time now, underinvestment by investors in tourism, coupled with fluid government and industry policies on the classification of properties has led to a steady growth of budget tourism, which is not particularly desirable.
Improved policy guidelines, segmentation and product differentiation should ideally realise the industry's growth within a planned mix of high-end tourism, budget tourism, and domestic tourism.
In Kenya, if more counties in the devolved system of government, for example, should focus on tourism as a key development area, the country’s tourism product has potential for vast diversification. This will, in the short-term, boost domestic tourism and in the long-term complement traditional beach, wildlife and conference tourism through the development of ecotourism, cultural tourism, sports tourism, and other advancements in thematic tourism.
Closely related to product development is the need to develop physical infrastructure related to the tourism experience, including roads to, within and around parks and other other tourism destinations.