NAIROBI, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) — Kenya’s meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) segment is finally picking up as hospitality players seek to market conference tourism in global markets amid the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said on Wednesday.
Hasnain Noorani, chairman of the Kenya Coast Working group said the hospitality industry players are hopeful that the MICE segment will recover after a sharp decline in 2020 and the first two weeks of 2021.
“Before the outbreak of COVID-19 virus and the subsequent introduction of travel restrictions and social-distancing guidelines, the MICE segment in Kenya presented a promising growth avenue for the industry seeking to diversify tourism offerings,” Noorani said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
MICE tourism is one of the growing segments that the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) has continued to market in line with the strategy of product diversification.
Industry players said the MICE has presented Kenya with an excellent opportunity to establish competitive advantage within this niche segment.
According to Noorani, Christmas and New Year holidays gave the tourism sector a sigh of relief and after experiencing a long dry spell, the sector has however seen a decline in business in the first two weeks of 2021 attributed scarcity of foreign arrivals owing to prolonged restrictions resulting from COVID-19 and other competing priorities locally.
He said the stakeholders are now hoping for a sector comeback in the MICE tourism as it remains the only alternative hope after foreign tourist arrivals significantly decline in 2020 due to the pandemic.
According to Noorani, many local, regional and international companies are now booking their conferences for 2021.
Kenya’s tourism industry which was once mainly sustained by international visitors, is repositioning itself to appeal to the domestic marketplace in the face of COVID-19.
“We are facing an uphill task in bringing hospitality business to where it used to be before the pandemic,” said Victor Shitakha, chairman, Kenya Coast Tourism Association.
Shitakha said Kenya’s MICE industry was among the continental leaders before the COVID-19 pandemic occurred.
He said as a result of severe quarantine measures that had to be put in place, the majority of destinations all over the world introduced COVID-19-related travel restrictions that were valid until late 2020.
The east African nation has identified MICE as one of the key drivers for the economic development and diversification of tourism in the country. Enditem