Kenya is moving to diversify its travel and tourism offering by leveraging on products and features whose potentials are massive but that have never been exploited. For a country that is globally recognized and renowned for its magical safari and idyllic sandy beaches, city tourism promises another frontier that will no doubt upscale its stature as a leading tourist destination.
According to Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Mr. Najib Balala, tourism has different facets which continue to expand every other day. “When people travel even to shop, they want to get a different experience – an experience that is comfort and hassle-free,” he notes.
The CS says the Government of Kenya has created a taskforce charged with the responsibility of improving services starting at the country’s national points of entry such as airports adding that shoppers and tourists are seeking comfort right from the airports to destinations and out of destinations as they head home.
Recognizing the vital role that Kenya’s retail sector plays in enhancing hassle-free shopping comfort, the CS says that the country is keen to develop city tourism which he adds is very crucial towards efforts to package Nairobi as a destination rather than a transit.
“City tourism is very crucial and we want to make Nairobi a destination rather than a transit area. For Nairobi to be a destination, we need everything to work, the airports, highways, retail stores, street lights, water systems and all.”
He adds: “Again it is for this reason that President Uhuru Kenyatta has appointed me to the Nairobi Regeneration Project under the Presidency – an initiative I co-chair with Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko.”
The team he says works on behalf of the County, the national government and the Presidency to improve Nairobi. “In most of these areas, we are heavily investing in infrastructure, low-cost housing as well as utilities. These services will be rendered to communities so that Nairobi and Kenya as a destination is wholesomely revived. Nairobi as a shopping and tourism destination must have activities.”
Local and international tourists visiting the magical destinations of Kenya he notes do not only go to see safaris and to the beaches but are also keen to experiences beyond safari and beyond beaches. “They go to outstanding retail outlets and to restaurants – so there is gastronomy. Nairobi is booming because of restaurants and retail areas, and culinary experiences. That is what we are supporting as Government of Kenya.”
He adds: “We are heavily in support of shopping tourism. That’s why I am impressed in the last couple of years big shopping malls have come up, big supermarkets and retail spaces including international brands have come in. The key thing is that they are all creating good opportunity for people to visit these areas.”
According to Balala, the key focus for Kenya’s retail outlet should be towards realization of hassle-free shopping experience noting: “I re-emphasize that hassle-free as a key word Kenya’s retail market and shopping malls need to embrace to thrive.
Someone comes in with their car, goes in and parks, feels secure – it is easy going in and out of establishments. We all need to take heavy responsibility for security searches, but it should not be to the deterrence or frustration of a client coming in to shop.”
How much does shopping contribute to local tourism in Kenya today?
We want to have the greatest value for money so that tourists spend more money wherever they visit in Kenya. This will happen by creating more activities and more opportunities. That’s why restaurants in Kenya are booming since tourists can go there to wine and dine. If they see that there are good and affordable shopping outlets, they will start shopping. I know the African Continent and our regional neighbors most of them come to Nairobi for shopping. Let’s begin by being sensitive to needs of both the African market and also the international market so that shopping becomes a trend. Shopping only becomes a trend when it’s trendy, stylish, hustle-free and affordable.
Why should local and international visitors consider Kenya first as a shopping destination, in your view?
In Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s basically Nairobi and Johannesburg South Africa that stand tall as hubs of shopping. That’s why we saw the potential and thought shopping can be a good opportunity for tourism. When people come here, they should find outlets that can service their needs.
On 12th June 2018, The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife launched the National Blueprint 2030 and the National Wildlife Strategy 2030 at the Kenyatta International Convention Center in Nairobi. What elements of the blueprint captures the spirit of commerce, retail and trade heading into 2030?
Our strategy in the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife National Blueprint 2030 has four key pillars: One is marketing. The second is product development strategy. The third is infrastructure. The fourth is investment.
In the retail market, our key national shopping outlets are covered under product development. When we develop a tourism destination, it should be an integrated tourism destination. An integrated tourism destination should have shopping outlets, restaurants, entertainment hot spots, night life, museums and safari destinations amongst other attractions. All these fall within product development strategy envisioned in the 2030 Tourism Ministry Blueprint.
What challenges exist in promoting local tourism in Kenya?
Well, the key challenge is awareness. Lack of awareness and realization that our local citizens can actually visit our magical destinations affordably stands in the way of local tourism. We want Kenyans to know that most local tour destinations are accessible to them, reachable by numerous means of transport and above all very affordable. They should just give it a try, I am sure they’ll look forward to another trip and similar experiences.
What would you say to Kenyans who opt to shop and visit local tour destinations?
I want to tell them to visit more and shop around more across various towns in Kenya, and that we have advanced very well in the shopping and retail sector because we have seen good shopping malls coming in and high international standards of supermarkets and others who have been here before.
People actually get surprised when they visit Kenya by the size and quality of shopping malls and products that we have established as a country in the last few years. We only need to advertise and market ourselves much more.
Your parting shot for visitors from abroad who intend to sample shopping in Kenya?
While most of our international guests do not specifically come here to shop, majority come for vacations, holiday and definitely our main attractions of Kenya – safari and sandy beaches. For their needs while here in the country, they are always welcome to sample our excellent retail stores which go out of the way to service numerous needs of the local and international tourist. These outlets avail both local and international products that travelers will require for their use and convenience while in Kenya.