Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, Najib Balala, is now moving in the same direction as Rwanda when he announced the formation of a special task force, aimed to establish the Kenya Convention Bureau.
When Rwanda in May 2014 established the Rwanda Convention Bureau, other countries in the region, while not outright dismissing the idea, nevertheless showed reservations towards the move.
After all, Rwanda had few major meeting facilities, apart from the Conference Centre at the Kigali Serena Hotel, and lacked hotel beds in the city, among other perceived challenges.
Today, two-and-a-half years later, the ball game has changed, as the new national convention center in the heart of Kigali is now fully functional, as is the adjoining Radisson Blu Hotel, while the Kigali Marriott Hotel is now also open.
The latter, like the nearby Kigali Serena Hotel, also offers meeting and conference facilities, and when the Ramada and Sheraton properties now under construction open up in a year or two, this will be further enhanced.
MICE business in Rwanda has been growing fast as a result and the Convention Bureau, working hand in hand with RDB’s tourism department and national airline, RwandAir, is building on the successes of having hosted major continental and intercontinental conferences and conventions since its inception.
The new task force will be tasked to promote MICE business, something done in the past between the Kenyatta International Convention Centre and the Kenya Tourism Board. Adding a dedicated body to promote conferences and conventions, however, will add focus on this market segment which is in fact credited for the rise in visitor numbers, spurred to a large extent by such major conferences and high-profile events hosted by Kenya in the capital of Nairobi.
It was also learned that the Kenyan government has shown renewed resolve to finally build a second national convention center at the Kenya coast, to add a much-needed facility besides helping Mombasa to also tap into this growing market.
Kenya is presently, after South Africa, the most sought-after MICE destination in Africa, one reason why new hotels like the Nairobi Radisson Blu has an entire floor dedicated to meeting and conference facilities able to host over a thousand delegates at a go.
The Naivasha region of Kenya in the Great African Rift Valley over the past years has seen a rise in meeting and conference activities across the major resorts, but participant numbers there range in the hundreds while in Nairobi the recently ended TICAD VI Summit brought about 10,000 visitors to the city.