MICE in Africa: Assessing Keny

MICE in Africa: Assessing Kenya’s business tourism readiness

Kenya’s business tourism seems poised to soar if a lack of beds and the JKIA damage caused by the August 7th fire can be overcome

MICE in Africa: Assessing Keny
The Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) in Nairobi. Image: Wikimedia Commons
The Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) in Nairobi. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The tourism industry in Kenya has suffered two consecutive blows to its standing in as many months following the devastating fire at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in August and the release of disappointing tourism figures this week. But the country remains well placed to pursue business tourism, given its regional position and its attractive incentives options. So what is the state of meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) in the Kenya?

Kenya is ranked second in African and in 58th place in the world for business tourism according to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), ahead of rivals that have greater overall visitor numbers. The country’s premier MICE venue is the Kenyatta International Conference Centre. This purpose-built venue boasts 30 storeys, eight meeting halls and exhibition areas, and a helipad.  The country hosted 29 conferences last year, 22 of which were in Nairobi.

But the biggest limiting factor appears to be a lack of beds. The Kenyan Tourism Board says that Nairobi’s bed capacity “stands at about 3 000 ‘quality beds’”, admitting this has “in the past led to pressure on bed space when the city hosts large international conferences”. The silver lining, according to them, is that “hotels … currently under construction are expected to increase the number of rooms in the city by 1 000 beds over the next two years.”

Proximity to Europe and the Middle East gives Kenya a certain advantage over more Southern climes like South Africa. A flight from Dubai to Nairobi is around five hours, for example. Around 26 airlines currently have scheduled passenger flights to and from JKIA. It is not immediately clear how the fire has affected this number after the airport’s initial closure in August.

Despite the obvious strategic advantages it enjoys, fears around security in the area (especially during the March elections) and the Eurozone crisis have negatively affected Kenya’s inbound tourism in the past few years. The latest figures show that international arrivals declined by 8.8% from a year ago and there was a 7.4 % drop in revenue in 2012-2013 compared to the previous year, or Sh96.24 billion from Sh103.91 billion.

Read more about MICE in Africa:

Greening Business Tourism: the low-hanging fruit

Mice in the city: Assessing the readiness of SA’s major cities (Part II: Johannesburg)

South Africa launches national conventions bureau for fast-growing events industry