Kenya ranks second in Africa in MICE tourism

Conference tourism is emerging as Kenya’s new growth frontier, earning the country second position after South Africa last year in the number of conferences held on the continent.

Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, Kenya
Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, Kenya

The placement in the Country & City Rankings 2012 by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) — a worldwide umbrella body for international conferences and conventions is a boost to the sector.

Kenya is ranked 58th globally in conference tourism, beating some nations that receive twice as many tourists. America is ranked first, after hosting 833 conferences, Germany second with 649, and Spain third with 550.

For investors in Naivasha, the ranking is a boost as the town appeared in ICCA rankings for the first time after hosting two international conferences. Mombasa, associated mostly with leisure and beach tourism, also hosted two conferences last year. The country hosted 29 international association conferences, with the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) hosting most of them.

“Kenya is easy to access from all parts of the continent, thanks mainly to Kenya Airways. It is also easy to connect to any Europe destination. The recent upgrading of the United Nations headquarters to the status of other UN bases worldwide has also led to an increase in meetings held in Kenya. This will help increase traffic to hotels and boost tourism,” said Kenya Association of Hotel and Caterers boss Mike Macharia.

Nairobi, which hosted 22 conferences, improved its position to 100th best city destination for international association conferences globally, up from the 104th position it held in 2011. It was also ranked second best city in Africa after Cape Town in South Africa.

“We are keen on having regional convention centres in the country as we transition to the county government system. KICC, the state corporation mandated to spearhead conference tourism in the country through the Ministry of Tourism, has already received commitment from some counties to fund them in line with the country’s meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) strategy,” said the KICC communications office.

This is among the strategies the country has adopted to catch up with leader South Africa that has its conventions spread in eight of the nation’s major cities.

“We have to benchmark and this is why we want to spread convention facilities. We are starting with Mombasa, Kisumu, and Isiolo,” KICC says.

Hemingways Hotel in  Nairobi, Kenya
Hemingways Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya

Land has been secured in Bamburi, Mombasa, to construct a green convention centre. The Ministry of Tourism is sourcing investors to partner with the industry on the project. Feasibility studies have been conducted in Kisumu and Isiolo and the two have been identified as potential destinations of conference tourism.

To meet the increasing demand for conference accommodation, numerous International hotel groups are also expanding in Kenya, these include Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, the Conrad Hotels & Resorts and Hilton Hotels & Resorts, which includes the Double Tree and Garden Inn hotels.

In preparing for the growth in conference tourism, the Kenyan government has invested 24 Billion Kenya Shillings in road expansion projects. These include expanding Thika Road from a four to a eight-lane superhighway and several other projects within Nairobi.

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