Negative perceptions hurting Kenya’s tourism

The biggest challenge affecting the tourism industry at the moment is negative perception about Kenya.
Tourism Recovery Strategy Committee Chairperson Lucy Karume regrets that even as the country continues on the recovery strategy on security issues, there is still negative perception out there that Kenya is not safe as a tourist destination.

“For example if someone is in the middle of an area in the United States, and you say there is a little fire say somewhere in Bungoma, they don’t know Bungoma, they know Kenya. So the portrayal there is that Kenya is ‘burning’ which is not the case,” Karume said.

She is now calling for an aggressive branding campaign by all stakeholders in the tourism industry to ensure full recovery of the sector which she says is still low.

“Surprisingly enough what has now become a big deterrent is not even the security issue, but the negative perception. But we should be able to show the true picture of what Kenya is all about. We have known numerous countries that have been able to turn around by just changing the thinking of people,” she said.

Adam Jillo who is also a member of the task force challenged the media to play great role in trying to tell positive stories happening in Kenya and not only focus on negative ones.

Jillo complained that negative reporting has had an adverse impact on Kenya’s image as far as the tourism recovery efforts are concerned.

“If you write bad things about Kenya, it will find itself in the foreign newspaper and you will have created a bad perception about your own country. There are so many good stories in the counties that no one knows about,” Jillo, who is also the Chairman of Kenya Association of Tour Operators urged the local media. “Charity begins at home.”

The two were speaking on Tuesday while handing over the final committee’s report to the Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie at her office which they have been preparing for since June last year when the team was formed.

Others in the nine member team included Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers Chairman Jaideep S. Vohra, Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) Managing Director Muriithi Ndegwa, Chris Modigell of South Coast Stakeholders and Roberto Marini, representing Malindi Stakeholders.

Philemon Mwavala was representing Watamu Stakeholders while lawyers Donald Kipkorir and Cecil Miller represented non-tourism stakeholders.

The report, whose contents were not divulged to the media, is now expected to be handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta on or before March 13, before its implementation kicks off.

The new report is expected to give the country strategies on the way forward for the industry, which was heavily affected by insecurity challenges especially in 2014.

“The government has been eagerly waiting for this report considering the crisis the sector has been undergoing. The government is very keen to turn that around, and we will not put this report on the shelves to gather dust,” CS Kandie assured.

This article was published by CAPITAL FM NEWS on March 3, 2015