February 2013 was a windfall month for the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) which received yet another honor as the best tourism institution in Africa. The reason is not difficult to trace, including the branding of the country exponentially in all areas of the industry, through the Magical Kenya imprint and the ongoing domestic tourism impetus. The touring partnerships with Air Kenya, alongside Kenya Airways’ own corporate branding, while identifying with top tourist spots, in the country, have also had a hand in this win.
But is this all there is to tourism?
Take the example of Uganda Tourism Board which recently began to focus on emerging markets, in the Oceania and Southeast Asia regions which has widened the scope where the industry can reach. Indeed, this removes the fiscal deficit that would befall the industry, which is the top earner of many countries’ foreign exchange reserves, including Kenya, were the traditional markets like Europe to stop making the yearly exodus into the continent.
There are cross-sector relations to consider when perpetuating the novel-destination mindset. Uganda, for example, relies on the Emirates airline to comb the south-east Asia region.
However, the above commendable approaches are not sufficient to institute tourism sectors that have staying power even when there is a tourist drop from the traditional markets. The following are some of the lucrative areas that the boards need to focus on to avoid the financial deficit that comes with over-reliance on Western tourists.
- Develop financial floats. Countries can follow the reserve and subsidy methodologies of, especially American institutions, which set aside a dollar or so for every unit of spending. This removes the institutions’ reliance on the government for funds. Aside from direct inflows, the Ministries of Tourism currently fund most of Africa’s tourism boards, which is not how it should be.
- Attract more marina investments. By encouraging foreign capitalists to set up facilities in their countries, African governments can aid Tourism Boards to improve on their services and focus on the productive areas. For example, they can advise on the best tourism circuits to set up the facilities, any time. Operators of such marinas would do anything to attract their own nationals, thus driving forward the tourism interests of a country. Kenya has opened up large swathes of its coastal belt for development by expatriates and other foreign nationals, albeit this has not yet brought up more marinas.
- Concentrate on Remittances from the Diaspora too. Financial reports show that the Diaspora contributes a huge chunk of money for development in many African countries. The tourism boards can borrow a leaf from this reality to not only wheedle international tourists to make landfalls but their own citizens, abroad, who can invest in the sector.
Because indeed the tourism sector is not all about how the country’s circuits are performing, or how many destinations the national airline has managed to penetrate. It is all about coming up with new incentives that can provide a sixth sense to the backbone industry of African economies, in forex terms, in case of a drop in traditional Western markets.