Is Kenya Africa’s New Frontier for Business Tourism?

Gallivant Africa

As Kenya marks 55 years of self-rule, Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) remains part of its history and a companion that will define and shape the country’s future. It remains part of Kenya’s rich heritage and provides a platform for the country to leap into its future.

The fact is, no one really thinks of Kenya’s Capital, Nairobi, without the iconic building KICC lining the blue skies. It seems to have been part of the capital for eternity, having played host to both local and international meetings, summits, exhibitions and great world leaders and celebrities since 1973.

A Landmark of events

The Centre has played host to some landmark events that have contributed to the growth of the country. Its unique structure consists of a large plenary hall, with a tower that consists of a cylinder composed of several cuboids, as well as the amphitheater and helipad that both resemble cones. The helipad/view tower offers a panoramic view of Nairobi’s sky line at a 360 degree angle. On a clear sky, one is able to see Mt. Kenya, the highest mountain Kenya and second highest in Africa.

It has space for all kinds of meetings including the amphitheater, which can host over 1000 participants sitting on three balconies surrounding the auditorium; the plenary hall, which remains the largest conference facility in East and Central Africa home to major international meetings, exhibitions and grand balls, with space for up to 5,000 people; the executive boardroom located on the first floor that is fully furnished, complete with a local area network, Internet and telephone lines.

It is also home to several well-lit and well-equipped meeting rooms with different capacities, Secretariat rooms for event organizers who require a local office close to meeting rooms, as well as a paved Courtyard ideal for outdoor functions, social events or ceremonies.

The COMESA grounds, which consist of expansive grounds overlooking the Kenyan Parliament is also part of KICC that hosts several outdoor events, exhibitions, galas, extravaganzas and concerts.

When it started its operations four and a half decades ago, it became the venue for an international conference, the Annual Meetings of the Board of Governors of the World Bank Group and the IMF, one of the first largest international conferences to take place in Africa. Since then, Kenya has developed its slot in the business tourism industry locally and internationally, which has seen it host other historical and high profile conferences and events including but not limited to:

  • The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Executive council meeting
  • The AGOA Forum
  • E.U. African Business Conference
  • Joe Biden Public address to the nation when he visited Kenya
  • 56th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference
  • World Trade Organization (WTO) 10th Ministerial conference
  • The 4th and 14th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
  • The 6 Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).
  • The sustainable Blue economy conference

The other conferences that are in the pipeline are expected to boost the business tourism sector in Kenya.

From a building to a corporation promoting Business Tourism

This beautiful architectural masterpiece and the icon of the country started its operations way back in 1973 just ten years after the country got independence. The Centre actually marked its 45th anniversary on 11th of September this year. However, it is now not just an iconic building with a unique shape at the heart of the city, but a state Corporation with a specialized mandate to promote and position Kenya as a Meetings, Incentive Travel Conferences and Exhibitions destination of choice also known as Business Events, thus its scope is national. KICC thus facilitates bids to attract international meetings and events to Kenya.

Business and conference tourism, or MICE is part of Kenya’s vision 2030 flagship project being implemented by the Ministry Tourism, which is expected to compliment other traditional forms of tourism like beach, bush and safari.

“Kenya has a large potential for MICE business as a major product, owing to its location and ease of international connections. Kenya’s Conference tourism is well placed and ready to offer a unique MICE package, combining business with pleasure, meetings and events and venues, all rolled up into one business tourism offering like none other, anywhere else,” says the KICC CEO and ICCA Africa deputy Chair, Nana Gecaga.

The country’s meetings industry market share trend has increased over the years in terms of the number of international meetings that have been held, with Nairobi being recently ranked the best conference tourism destination by World Travel awards.

Nana adds that “This shows that Kenya has potential to attract even more international conferences and events to the East African region and the avenues for growth and business interactions are limitless.”

There is also another niche that KICC is exploring. The Centre has already positioned itself as a concerts venue attracting performances from a number of International artists. This is in an effort to make the KICC a vibrant venue just like all the other iconic buildings around the world as well as leverage on the artists as brand ambassadors to market the destinations to the world.

Increased capacity

To increase its product offering and capacity, the KICC is putting up an exhibition facility with capacity of 20,000 seater. The facility is aimed at attracting world major expos, mega conventions and trade fairs. This facility will be completed by 2020 and it will be the biggest facility in East and Central Africa.

Defining Kenya’s future through Business Events

For quite a time, Kenya has maintained a firm grip globally as among the top most preferred tourist destination, thanks to its diverse and unique blend of tourist attraction products that range from breath-taking scenery, diverse cultures and people; to, wildlife, beaches, natural and man-made attraction points. Hotel and accommodation facilities also play an important role.

KICC through MICE, is already promoting business tourism in counties, which will re-position Kenya as the preferred global tourism destination.

So far, the meetings industry’s performance in global ranking has been impressive. KICC and in collaboration with our Mother Ministry of Tourism together with industry stakeholders will continue to strive to position Kenya as a preferred destination in business tourism.

To keep abreast with the industry, KICC is a member of a number of International bodies including International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), Meeting Professionals International (MPI), United World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), International Association of Congress Centres (AIPC) among others.

Miriro Matema
the authorMiriro Matema
Born in Zimbabwe and living in South Africa, Miriro is a seasoned publishing editor and writer, having worked with leading brands in investment, business leadership and entrepreneurship. Passionate about Africa’s development, Miriro is also a dynamic marketing consultant with 10 years experience working with startups and large multinational corporations. With a heart for travel, Miriro spends her time discovering the nooks of crannies of Africa’s hidden gems, taking the roads less travelled, meeting the beautiful people that call Africa home while exploring their food and culture. Miriro is currently a writer with Byolife Travel and Gallivant Africa

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