The fourth BIK Breakfast Meeting of 2018 was held on Friday, 5th October 2018 at the Capital Club East Africa in Nairobi, Kenya from 7.30 am with approximately 60 members attending.

Opening Remarks: BIK Chair, Niall Meany

The Chair, Niall Meany, welcomed all present to the meeting and gave a brief overview of the agenda.

Remarks from Ambassador of Ireland, Dr. Vincent O’Neill

The Chair introduced the Ambassador who in his remarks provided an overview of the Kenyan and Irish economies, current trade between both countries and an update on Embassy initiatives.

In particular, the Ambassador noted the following:

  • The Irish economy is expected to continue to record strong growth this year with forecasts for growth ranging from 5.6% to up to 9% for 2018, Despite Ireland being the fastest growing economy in the Euro Zone, risks to continued growth emanate from possible implications of global trade, changes in global taxation, the withdrawal by the UK from the EU, stability of the Government, budgetary prudence, low rates of inflation, and ensuring markets for Irish produced and manufactured goods overseas.
  • On Kenya-Ireland trade, there is a continuous upward trend, although from a low base and the highest traded services are financial services and communications. Positive trends in terms of the numbers of Irish companies interested in the Kenya market continue.
  • The Ambassador informed members that the Africa Ireland Economic Forum will take place in Dublin on 11th October and will focus on strengthening Ireland-Africa trade and investment in Agri-business as well as women-led businesses in Africa. Hon Peter Munya, Cabinet Secretary for Trade, Industrialisation and Cooperatives is to be a keynote speaker and will be accompanied by a delegation of 14 Kenyan Businesses, representatives of Business Member Organisations and State agencies. BIK will be strongly represented.
  • The Blue Economy Conference will take place from the 26th – 28th November at KICC with the theme, ‘The Blue Economy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ and it will include a Business Forum.
  • A delegation from the Irish Revenue Commissioners will travel to Kenya in December to commence formal discussions with the KRA on developing a Double Taxation Agreement between Kenya and Ireland.
  • The Embassy-commissioned Regional Education Study has been finalised and prospects were very positive for increasing the numbers of East African Students pursuing third level education in Ireland.
  • The Ambassador informed members that the Irish Government‘s Africa Agriculture Development Programme (AADP) which supports joint Irish-Kenyan ventures in agriculture had seen a number of successful applicants from Kenya. In the last month, two further Irish-Kenyan joint ventures have been approved for grant assistance of over KES 20 million each for developing agri-business initiatives.
  • The Embassy is developing a Catalytic Fund that will support Kenyan SMEs in the livestock, fisheries and potato sectors through small grants. This is to be launched early in 2019. In addition, the Embassy is signing a contract with KEPSA to establish a business hub to support access trade and investment opportunities.
  • On Kenya’s economy, the Government launched a new National Exports Development and Promotion Strategy in July whose objective is to narrow existing trade deficit by growing export levels from the equivalent of 8% of GDP by 25% every year to 2020.
  • Finally, the Ambassador informed the audience that there will be a Social Impact Roundtable meeting on 24th of October 2018 to discuss how business networks can support and facilitate SMEs to contribute to achieving the SDGs. This will be followed by an Event at the Capital Club on 15th November 2018.

Security Briefing by Warrior Insight

A security briefing was provided by Warrior Insight which noted that the current overall security situation in Kenya was calm.  Recent terrorist activities were noted in July and August, and in the third quarter, terrorism activity was confined to counties lying on the Kenya-Somalia However, there was a significant drop in the number of attacks over the previous months.

The recent hike on fuel tax would likely have an impact on crime levels as increase will put pressure on low income segments of the population which could result in an increase in opportunistic crimes. Stakeholders in the tourism sector should take note of areas where travellers interface with densely populated areas such as on roads, parks, open air markets as the opportunity for criminals to target these areas are high. Ethnically motivated clashes have recently been reported but would most likely have no direct impact on third parties such as travellers; although there is potential for disruptions to travel. The briefing concluded on police reforms that are meant to introduce a more effective and coordinated response to security incidents.

Presentation by Dr. Betty Radier, CEO of Kenya Tourism Board

Dr. Betty Radier opened the session with an engaging Magical Kenya video about Tourism in Kenya entitled: ‘Come live the magic’.  She proceeded to introduce the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) as a State agency mandated to market Kenya at local, national, regional and international levels as a premier tourist destination. In her address, she highlighted the following points:

  • KTB’s core functions include; Identifying tourism market needs and trends and advising tourism stakeholders accordingly.
  • Tourism is one of Kenya’s most important economic sectors. It is Kenya’s third highest foreign currency earner contributing to a tenth of Kenya’s GDP and over 250,000 jobs directly.
  • On 12th June 2018, the Ministry of Tourism launched the National Tourism Blueprint 2030 anchored on four pillars: product strategy, marketing strategy, investment promotion and infrastructure strategy.
  • There has been tremendous growth in the tourism sector even with the recent elections; total international arrivals, tourism receipts and domestic tourism performance have increased by 9.8%, 20.3% and 15.9% respectively.

This growth may be attributed to;: Increased investment in promoting domestic tourism; infrastructure development providing access to tourist attractions; opening up of new properties and entry of more international brands giving more confidence in the destination; the rise in alternative accommodation such as homestays and furnished apartments that are perceived to be more affordable than the conventional hotel accommodation and affordable packages developed by tour operators and domestic carriers, targeting weekends and short holidays. 

Kenya’s Top Tourism Source Markets are:

  • The US, contributing 11.8% of arrivals; Kenya Airways’ planned direct flight from Nairobi to New York is poised to increase tourist traffic from the U.S. to Kenya by at least 15%.
  • The UK, contributing 11.1% of arrivals; Kenya and the UK enjoy long-standing historical ties.
  • Uganda, contributing 6.4% of arrivals; Uganda is Kenya’s top tourist source market in Africa.
  • India, contributing 6.2% of arrivals.
  • China contributing 5.5% of arrivals; The Chinese market represents a huge opportunity for Kenya

Moderated Panel Discussion on Tourism

The BIK Chair, Niall Meany introduced the moderator, BIK Steering Committee member, Darren Gillen and the four guest speakers, highlighting their engagement in different ways with the tourism sector:

  1. Betty Radier, CEO of Kenya Tourism Board
  2. Alastair Addison, CEO of Hemingways Group
  3. David Stogdale, Managing Director of Great Plains East Africa
  4. Vincent O’Neill, Ambassador of Ireland to Kenya

Each speaker had an opportunity to provide some perspectives on tourism opportunities for BIK members.

Alastair Addison

Alastair gave some brief background on the Hemingways Group. He noted that tourism is important as it creates job markets both locally and internationally. In his address, he highlighted the following:

  • The threat of over-congestion in areas such as the Masai Mara to sustainable conservation of wildlife.
  • How direct flights to New York will boost the tourism Industry
  • The need to address immigration issues at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport
  • More investors will be attracted to Kenya if security and infrastructure are improved.

David Stogdale

David shared his experience of working for many years in the sector. He acknowledged the great hospitality that Kenyans provide and that Irish-Kenyan interaction should be further strengthened to promote tourism and trade between both countries; highlighting similarities between both countries.  He believes that there are many opportunities for business working directly and indirectly in tourism, and that there is a lot that can be done to increase the number of Irish tourists in Kenya and vice versa.  He mentioned particular areas that could be further developed, such as tourism related to golf.

Dr. Vincent O’Neill

The Ambassador began by noting that tourism is the 2nd most important industry in Ireland. Among the key highlights from his address are the following;

  • There are approximately 10 million people visiting Ireland from the US, UK and Canada and about 60,000 from Africa annually. Tourism is of huge benefit to the Irish economy not just in increasing the number of jobs created but also in promoting Irish investment overseas.
  • From the BIK perspective, there is a need to increase awareness of Ireland as a tourist destination for Kenyans and in attracting Irish investors and tourists to Kenya who later return to do business.
  • The Embassy has an important role to play in increasing awareness and promoting Kenya. He welcomed suggestions on how to attract more Irish people to Kenya as this will contribute to strengthening the Ireland-Kenya business relationship.

Questions and discussion

The moderator asked the panellists the following questions:

Q1. How will direct flights to and from the US affect tourism in Kenya?

Dr. Betty Radier acknowledged that direct flights will boost Kenya’s tourism and trade by improving access and connectivity. The government of Kenya also has to consider access (infrastructure) to the counties. The SGR for example, has led to high numbers of domestic tourists to Mombasa because of ease of access.

 Q2. What more can be done to promote other beautiful parts of Kenya, apart from Coast and safaris?

Alastair Addison pointed out that each county should have a strategy to strengthen tourism. This can be achieved through setting up long term plans that can include; building lodges, roads and other infrastructure that support tourism and engaging travel agents who share information about the areas to visit in specific counties. He emphasised that infrastructure, security and value for money are key aspects of tourism promotion. There is need to educate counties to understand the importance of tourism in Kenya.

Q3. What role do you see for the Embassy and BIK in strengthening links in tourism and hospitality?

Ambassador O’Neill responded that this would need to be done through incorporating tourism promotion in the Embassy and BIK’s work to create awareness and by using opportunities such as the African Ireland Economic Forum to promote tourism and through sports. When bringing delegations to Kenya, they can be given material on Kenya as a tourism destination. He noted the importance of having a long term vision for attracting Irish tourists to Kenya, and vice versa.

Q4 What are your suggestions for BIK and the Embassy to increase tourism between Kenya- Ireland?

A number of BIK members and guests provided suggestions from the floor including Jake Grieves, Simon Shrubsole, Tracy Scott and Martin Hoeck. These included:

  • Improving access through linkages with international airlines.
  • Not only focusing on seasonal tourism for example, the Wilderbeast migration that only takes place in August but innovating new products that cater for other months in the year.
  • Support from Government to improve the ease of doing business for companies operating in the sector
  • Increasing awareness in Ireland by communicating with Irish travel agents, media and user-generated content which is easy and less costly.
  • KTB organising fairs in foreign countries
  • Having lower cost opportunities so as to increase the volume of tourists
  • Working directly with Travel Agencies’ global bodies and associations
  • Developing user-friendly booklets that give a summary on Kenya and Ireland tourism
  • Targeting millennials
  • Improving the experience/infrastructure at the JKIA terminals

As the panel discussion was concluding, and in direct response to comments made relating to JKIA, Dr. Betty Radier highlighted the following:

  • There is a Multi-Agency Platform that was set up to address issues at the airport (JKIA) and to help improve the experience of tourists at JKIA. This includes each employee going through training and qualifying for a Customer Service Certificate.
  • The Kenya Airports Authority has been tasked with dealing with any aspects of delay at the airports and to ensure good infrastructure at the terminals. There is also a long-term plan to develop a new terminal.

Following the guest speakers’ presentations and panel discussion, the meeting was concluded with closing remarks by the BIK Chair at 9.45 am and BIK members were then given the opportunity to network.

The next meeting – the Business Ireland Kenya Annual General Meeting (AGM) – will be held at the Capital Club on Friday, 7th December, 2018. An agenda will be shared with members in due course.