State tourism financier eyes deals in mountaineering and birdwatching

Industry

State tourism financier eyes deals in mountaineering and birdwatching


Kenya Development Corporation (KDC) acting chief executive, Christopher Huka. PICTURES | BOWL

The Kenya Development Corporation aims to fund ventures in experience tourism like mountaineering, which it sees as a major growth engine for the recovering sector in the coming months.

The state-run development financier says it is looking beyond traditional beach and safari tourism by providing loans on favorable terms to the sector.

KDC took over the role of Tourism Finance Corporation – established in 1965 to provide affordable long-term development finance and advisory services for investments in the tourism industry – following the merger of development financiers owned by state last July.

“Tourism, once revived, is an interesting sector. We have never succeeded because our definition of tourism is the beach and the safari. We’re changing that mindset to create a circuit that seeks to define experiences,” KDC Acting General Manager Christopher Huka said in an interview.

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“According to the Kenya Tourism Board, Kenya has 49 experiences and we haven’t even operated half of them.”

Mr. Huka sees mountaineering and birdwatching as low-altitude fruits that can generate tourism revenue in the future.

He cited Mount Kilimanjaro in neighboring southern Tanzania, where around 35,000 people attempt to climb Africa’s highest mountain each year, as an indicator of the potential for experiential mountaineering tourism.

“A good example is mountaineering where there are tourists who don’t care about beaches, but about mountains. Do we have enough luxury camps on Mount Kenya? Compare mountaineering income for Kilimanjaro [in Tanzania] against that of Kenya. You will be shocked,” Mr. Huka said.

“We also have bird watchers. There are those who love the lake, the forests or just the noise of the city.

TFC, whose functions now fall under KDC, has advanced 2.2 billion shillings in capital loans to hoteliers for the year ending June 2021 as part of the economic stimulus package, according to the Ministry of Finance’s latest budget report. Tourism.

Kenya’s tourism revenue jumped 65% to 146.51 billion shillings last year, from 88.56 billion shillings in 2020, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, largely due to visits national parks on coastal beaches as well as in parks and wildlife reserves.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said in January that the recovery from the pandemic had been partly bolstered by improved performances at international events, including the Magical Kenya Open, the World Racing Championship and the return of the Safari Rally.

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“Domestic overnight stays increased by 101.3% between 2020 and 2021, while international overnight stays increased by 0.05%. These recovery trends in overnight stays indicate that the hospitality sector in Kenya was largely driven by domestic travel in 2021,” the ministry wrote in the 2021 Tourism Sector Performance Report 2021.

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