Kenya’s decision to launch a convention bureau puts Uganda under pressure to follow suit


(Posted 05th October 2017)


A key seminar on the sidelines of the Magical Kenya Travel Expo, currently ongoing at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in the heart of Nairobi, discussed the value and need of having national convention bureaus to exclusively deal with procuring MICE business and providing logistical support as a one stop centre to conference organizers.
Moderator Rick Taylor, who was the lead consultant in the establishment of the Rwanda Convention Bureau a few years ago, together with his panel ably demonstrated the benefits of having such an organization.
It was confirmed that Kenya was in the final phase before launching its own convention bureau after feeling the competitive pressure build up from Rwanda, which, like Kenya, last year hosted 18 major conferences, the same as Egypt, putting the three countries into the third position in Africa according to ICCA data seen.
Rick explained that business travel spending grew by 2.1% in 2016 to USD$12.6 billion, and is expected to rise by 3.6% to USD $18 billion in 2026. Business tourists he said were less cost-sensitive than leisure tourists, spending on average twice as much per day compared to conventional tourists. The purchase decisions of such travelers are influenced primarily by their ability to use time efficiently within business travel schedules.
Rick raised the question how destinations can attract business travellers, what the competitive trends are and how countries can meet business travellers’ needs for both efficiency and relaxation?
The seminar then discussed the importance of setting up a convention bureau and the impact of convention bureaus in Africa where, since the launch of the Rwanda Convention Bureau the country’s standing in the ICCA rankings saw a meteoric rise, propelling it from a mid twenty position with just a handful of meetings five years ago into the third place last year – albeit shared in 2016 with Kenya and Egypt – on the African continent.

Regular sources close to the Kenya Tourism Board and the Ministry of Tourism confirmed that it was to a large part this development which ‘threatened‘ Kenya’s dominance in the region for MICE business, that a task force was established by the Ministry of Tourism to evaluate the need for an own convention bureau based in Nairobi. The recommendations of the task force was, for insiders at least, a foregone conclusion and the report handed to Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala prompted an immediate nod of approval from him, setting into motion logistical preparations towards the formal establishment of the Kenya Convention Bureau.

Uganda meanwhile lingers in distant 10th position in the ICCA Africa rankings despite having the hotel capacity and the meeting facilities in Kampala. In fact, Serena Hotels will as part of the ongoing work scope at the Kampala Serena Hotel next year embark on a complete refurbishment of their Kampala Serena Conference Centre. East Africa’s leading hotel group will be installing state of the art equipment which should arguably make it East Africa’s best such facility, capable to seat over 2.000 delegates in the amphitheatre and more in adjoining committee rooms.
Said a Ugandan participant in the seminar: ‘It is time for Uganda to act on such facts which were presented here. Competition is strong and Rwanda has just overtaken us so easily and yet we were an established conference location from 2007 when Uganda hosted CHOGM‘.

The following are the top ten countries and conference cities in Africa:

1. South Africa
2. Morocco
3. Rwanda
6. Ghana
7. Ethiopia
8. Nigeria
9. Tanzania
10. Uganda

1. Cape Town
2. Marrakech
3. Kigali
4. Durban
5. Johannesburg
6. Nairobi
7. Addis Ababa
8. Stellenbosch
9. Accra
10. Cairo

Indeed will the pressure now build up on the Uganda government to move with full speed towards establishing their own convention bureau to tap into the rich global meeting market which Rick Taylor pegged at 12.6 billion US Dollars last year and rising fast when the private sector comes to realise that major business opportunities bypass them for the lack of such an organization being in place.
Added one of the panelists in a private conversation after the seminar: ‘It also depends of course on the caliber of people working for such an office. They must understand this market which is very different from the regular tourism marketing and therefore requires specialists in this field‘.
Wise words which hopefully take root in the minds of Uganda’s powers that be and key decision makers and lead to prompt action to support the country’s growing hospitality and tourism industry.

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