Kenya Tourism cancels ATM 2014 participation for lack of funds


(Posted 17th December 2013)

Derek Houston of Houston Marketing, Africa Representative of Reed Travel Exhibitions, a close ally to the East African tourism sectors and in particular to Kenya, was swift to step into the breach when news broke that the Kenya Tourism Board will not be able to have a stand at the 2014 edition of the Middle East’s most important tourism trade fair, the Arabian Travel Market.

While only recently efforts were made by Kenya to get into the Kuwait market, the absence due to lack of funds from ATM 2014 is seen as a major miscalculation by Kenya’s government, and the decision, going by the comments received since the news broke late last week, all indicate that many stakeholders, top guns among them, now think that their government has finally lost the plot.

Houston Marketing’s mail to the Kenyan private sector came as a welcome relief and reads as follows:

Hi all Kenya tourism colleagues,

Unfortunately for budgetary reasons KTB are not going to exhibit at Arabian Travel Market 2014.

We have therefore decided to offer Kenyan and other East African companies booths on an East African pavilion* at Arabian Travel Market which takes place from 05-08 May 2014 in Dubai

*If we fill the stand with Kenyan companies only we will then rebrand it as a Kenya stand with Kenya graphics!

Arabian Travel Market is the premier business to business travel exhibition in the Middle East. The show provides an established international platform to reach high value customers and build your brand

At Arabian Travel Market you will meet buyers not only from the UAE, but also from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Iran, India , Pakistan and Bahrain.

Arabian Travel Market also has a good attendance of buyers from East Mediterranean and North African countries.

There has been a tremendous response from African countries for Stand space at ATM 2014. Currently, Nigeria, Seychelles, Mauritius, Zimbabwe , Zambia, Namibia, and Ethiopia will be participating.

ATM 2013 attendance figures included 21096 travel trade professionals from 165 countries.17,0% of all visitors were interested in doing business with Africa.

The price of a 5 square metres booth is USD 4830

This is a Walk on Package including all Furniture, a lockable cupboard ,Fascia board , logo and a Graphic of your choice . There will also be a graphic of the Kenyan flag on your booth(Rwandans will have a Rwandan flag etc)


In addition the stand costs includes The Enhanced Exhibitor Directory which enables you to promote your company year-round via Arabian Travel Market’s numerous communication tools. The package includes:

• Standard entry in official onsite catalogue plus a company profile.

• Online Exhibitor Directory Listing. Including company profile, logo and product gallery (upload videos, pictures, and brochures)

• Exhibitor News Room: upload press releases

• Online Diary: confirm appointments with Hosted Delegates, Buyers Club Members and other exhibitors

If you would like to participate on the East Africa stand at Arabian Travel Market please complete the Booking Form below and return it to me as soon as possible.

We only have 5 booths available and these will be sold on a First come first served basis.

Looking forward to hearing from you.


Derek Houston Africa Representative Reed Travel Exhibitions

Tel +27 12 6651191.Cell +27 82 4640901

Fax +27 12 6651677


Reactions were swift and are getting harsher, as far as cabinet secretary Phyllis Kandie is concerned, in fact as far as the Kenyan government overall is concerned, with some now accusing them to live on a different planet and calling for an end to ‘empty speeches’ and for the start of taking the private sector concerns seriously. ‘Frankly I am fed up with Kandie’s Sunday sermons. Where is the beef in all of that. If KTB does not have the money to attend a trade show which is key to capturing and keeping the Middle East market, what is next? Yes, let them go to Nigeria and promote there, no one is arguing to court a big African market but dropping ATM 2014 instead is sheer lunacy. It is clear that we are not taken seriously at all when we complain about being put between hammer and anvil. On one side they slap us with VAT, raise taxes, introduce new fees, make us pay for a bloated public tourism set up with half a dozen parastatals instead of one well facilitated tourism authority and on the other hand they give KTB peanuts compared to their real need. What KTB needs is money. Their global market strategy is by and large sound but without the money they simply cannot deliver. ATM has always been very important for us to tap into the expatriate market there and to attract Gulf citizens to travel to Kenya for safari and for our beach resorts. If this is our government’s Christmas present to the tourism private sector, then they truly lost the plot. We know you caused her predecessor [former tourism minister Danson Mwazo] sleepless nights and exposed that Tanzanian minister [Ezekiel Maige, sacked over numerous
allegations made against him in parliament] for his mishandling of so many issues there that in the end he was sacked but I fully agree with you that tourism in Kenya has to be reorganized on government level if the sector is to succeed. We need a dedicated portfolio like you got in Uganda and in Tanzania and those half dozen parastatals have to go. They duplicate all the admin, HR and head office functions and were only created because the Kibaki government was based on cronyism. They needed to create jobs for the coalition partners. Let us save that crucial money and put it into tourism marketing and promotion, but for now it is obvious that the little money there is has been divided towards such budget lines. And let me also be clear, if they touch KTB and try to merge it, they will have a rebellion at hand from the private sector. Is there an agenda to destroy tourism?’ ranted a regular commenter from the Kenya coast when learning about these latest developments.

Understandably emotions in particular at the Kenya coast are raging high at present, with recent and future occupancies giving hotels and resorts serious cause for concern, especially once the holiday season is over after New Year’s day. An emergency meeting yesterday at the Severin Resort in Mombasa brought together some key stakeholders to discuss with the county Governor from Mombasa a range of issues, ranging from the need to clean up the city, to increased security around the notorious Likoni area to preferential access of tourist vehicles to the ferries between Mombasa and the south coast mainland, the urgent need for more flights to Mombasa and issues with utilities like water, sewerage and electricity. A recent budget cut by the county government of Mombasa led to the delay in constructing a new state of the art convention centre, and this too has been a bone of contention with the Nairobi government, which keeps peddling MICE tourism like a carrot and yet lacks the facilities, apart from the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, to actually attract large conferences, conventions and global meetings. Said another coast based source in this regard: ‘If Kandie wants to promote MICE tourism, let her say when the Mombasa Convention Centre will be ready. Let her say where the money to build it will come from. Let her back up those statements of hers with facts and cash before we believe a word she is saying. Enough is enough, we are tired of words and assurances, let them put the money where their mouth is and we can get on with things’.

And a word of advice in closing, governments which fail to constructively engage with and listen to the private sector, rarely make it back for another term of office and while admittedly it is still early in the 5 year term of the present government, there are more problems than achievements to report as 2013 draws to a close. Watch this space for regular and breaking news from across the Eastern African region’s tourism sectors.

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