#KTF Chairman Mohammed Hersi comes out swinging against cutting marketing budget


(Posted 15th May 2018 and in part taken from VoyagesAfriq.com)

When Mohammed Hersi mentioned in his comments shown below that he was one of the few opposing austerity measures by Kenya’s Tourism Ministry and Tourism Board, resulting in cutting down trade show attendance, he may not have been aware of the dozens of comments and mails received by ATCNews.org from stakeholders in Kenya equally opposed to the measure. All of them were firm that ATCNews.org should carry their comments and serve as a platform for their dissent, given how few media organizations in Kenya had taken up their protests.

Said Mohammed:

I am one of the few people who are opposed to the move by KTB to pull out of fairs. Even retaining ITB Berlin was after we raised hue and cry.
I do NOT recall any research or study that was done or shared with us for a buy in that indeed participating in these fairs is waste of time and money.

WTM London is mainly for UK agents and some European. It is even more crucial now that BREXIT is happening and UK is taking back Its rightful No 1 position as a tourist source for Kenya . ITB is for entire EU and other buyers

Indaba is mainly for Safari Buyers esp North America. Australia etc. ATM Dubai is for the GCC and Asia
They talk of ROI. Firstly we have never been told how much we spend on these fairs besides we all fly ourselves and also pay for our accommodation we then share the cost of the stand.

The justification put forward is that we are now adopting a direct consumer approach does not hold any water since it is a known fact that as a safari destination you’ll always need a DMC who in turn works with wholesalers globally. The logistics of attracting a do it yourself client for a safari itinerary is next to impossible more so when we are trying to attract families. You tell me which family from Sydney or Seattle or Tokyo would attempt to do that? Even with a DMC they are never sure about Africa. Kenya as a destination is not some Disney that we can wake up and claim to market direct to the consumer.

Kenya’s Stand at the Exhibition
You bypass the wholesalers and you avoid the fairs then they’ll happily read your obituary to any potential visitor while our competitors will happily pick the pieces. They have already done it at ATM Dubai and Indaba Durban and soon at WTM London.

We have no issue with digital campaign but that should complement other channels like fairs . Even at our worst image crisis as nation like the PEV of 2007/8 while the peace accord was signed on 28th Feb 2008 the following week we were at ITB telling the world we are open for business. Imagine for once if we missed out?

To KTB if fairs are a failure how comes the rest of the world are all attending?
What is that very special insight that KTB has that has been missed out by the rest of the world who are still wasting their time and money at these fairs so to speak?

If KTB is going digital how come the Tech zones at these fairs are getting bigger and better every year yet all they do is to trade online. Why would Booking.com, Expedias and The likes ” waste ” their money at fairs yet they can comfortably do it in a digital way besides that is precisely what they are Online Travel Agents OTA’s.

The Kenyan delegation at the their stand during the first day of ITB

Where would you meet 30 buyers from 4 continents and 20+ source countries in 3 days? If you were to physically visit all these source countries to meet all these players you will blow your budget for the next three years.

Coca Cola President was asked by a young pilot why they spend so much money on advertising yet Coca Cola is already popular. The President calmly responded to the young pilot “Why are we running the engine and yet we are already airborne.”

I am afraid pulling out of these fairs will negatively affect our destination while the competition is rubbing their hands with glee.
Well time will tell and as industry players we are exploring how to take ourselves to WTM London. If that is to happen then KTB’s very existence will be under focus since marketing and promoting the destination is their first mandate which by default they would have abdicated.

I rest my case
Mohammed Hersi
Kenya Tourism Federation


These sentiments were echoed by all regular contributors and commentators to ATCNews.org from not just Kenya, but also raised serious questions across the borders in Rwanda and Uganda.

Are we not supposed under an agreement to have joint stands at tourism trade fairs, which includes Kenya? Why are they suddenly breaking ranks with us? Whatever they are trying to say, why not tell the truth that they failed to allocate enough money for tourism marketing this year? Well let me tell them, if they are AWOL those of us who are at those trade shows will simply sell our own countries and Kenya’s loss will be our gain. Entebbe and Kigali are now well connected to Europe, the Gulf and across Africa and it is no longer essential to fly through Nairobi to get here‘ said a leading Ugandan tourism stakeholder while a colleague of his in Kigali added: ‘This is an uninformed decision taken for lack of money surely and now trying to explain it away. I speak of experience because we were told last year that permit fees for gorilla tracking had to be doubled for conservation reasons and we now know that this was equally poorly informed. At least we still go to tourism trade shows and with the Kenyan competition absent we stand a better chance to sell those expensive permits, maybe‘.

So Mr. Hersi, you are not alone in opposing the measures taken by your bureaucrats and no doubt will your contribution trigger a debate in Kenya between private and public sectors what it is the Kenyan tourism stakeholders really want and need and not what, like during the command economy days of the 1970’s government thought fit to dictate.


In a related development has Rwanda pushed Kenya down the rankings in the ICCA listings for 2017, taking over the African position number three which was previously shared with Kenya and Egypt. Kenya’s failure to operationalize their planned convention bureau – coupled with not going to key trade shows like IMEX where MICE business is transacted, will leave the door wide open for other countries in the region, in particular Rwanda, to bag yet more regional, continental and global meetings at the expense of Kenya, at a time when the country needs more visitors, in particular those higher spending market segments to reclaim lost territory.