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Tanzania is using members of the international diplomatic corps as ‘ambassadors’ to promote its tourism sector by inviting foreign envoys on trips to the country’s best tourism attractions: to Butiama village in the Mara region, the birthplace of President Nyerere and to the prehistoric sites of Olduvai Gorge in the Great Rift Valley. Here, ‘Brand Kenya’ is leaping into action… That the Kenyan tourism industry, particularly on the coast, needs urgent life-saving treatment is not in doubt. The murder of British David Tebbutt and the kidnapping of his wife Judith from Kiwayu Safari Village on September 11 stunned the patient; the kidnapping of French Tourist Maria Dedieu from Ras Kitau, Manda Island, on October 1 (see Forum posting ‘The price of piracy’) all but sent it into a coma from which it is yet to emerge and is unlikely to do so for some considerable time to come. Earlier this week three MPs from Lamu County met with local hoteliers and others and announced that the area was now safe for foreign tourists following ‘a massive security operation’. Quite what the ‘security operation’ entailed was not reported (see, ‘Leaders say security in Lamu has improved’, The Standard, October 11). Fahim Twaha (Lamu West), Abu Chiaba (Lamu East) and nominated MP Ms Shakila Abdalla,  called on foreign embassies to lift advice to their nationals that warned them not to travel to Lamu. Ms Abdalla said, “It’s true the incidents occurred because our security was not up to date but now we are confident that the security machinery put in place will deter such attacks.” NITAKUWEPO (I’LL BE THERE) BUT WILL ANYONE ELSE? It was in the same edition of The Standard but this time on the front of the ‘Business’ page, that news of ‘Brand Kenya’s’ latest initiative was revealed. Under the headline ‘Brand Kenya unveils Sh76 million awareness campaign’ it was reported that the State Corporation had unveiled a six month countrywide campaign called ‘Nitakuwepo’ (‘I’ll be there’) ‘to raise awareness on the need for national cohesion’.

Brand Kenya CEO, Mary Kimonye

Sh76 million, dear readers, is about $745,098 (and there are some people criticising Brand Kenya for wasting money, would you believe it). Brand Kenya CEO Mary Kimonye said it wasn’t really enough to have the necessary impact. “Initially our budget was Sh300 million”, she said. The campaign to be run for six months aims to instill a sense of pride and patriotism in Kenyans and thus build ‘national cohesion’. Mary Kimonye asked, “How can we convince tourists, investors and our neighbours that Kenya is a great place to be if we as citizens do not embrace each other and work together to build the nation?” The Nitakuwepo campaign will apparently be followed by another six month campaign directed at ‘the international community’ but according to Ms Kimonye it “may take up to 10 years of sustained promotion to build a formidable Kenyan brand.” That should secure a few jobs at Brand Kenya but the Forum’s not so sure it will help restore employment on the coast. Well it might take 10 years to build the Kenyan brand but right now the Forum has some advice for Mary Kimonye and her colleagues. MAKE THE CHANGE, COMMUNICATE THE CHANGE The task in hand – saving and then resurrecting Kenya’s vital tourism sector – is in some ways quite simple. First, objectively identify the problems confronting Kenya’s coastal tourism sector. Second, work out real, practical solutions to solve those problems. Third, make the changes needed to solve the problems with all due haste. And finally, communicate ‘the change’ to all those who need to know. The Forum has seen little or no evidence that this four stage solution, or anything approaching it, is being instituted. The crisis affecting tourism on the coast is serious, it is happening now and it needs addressing now. The Sh76 million being spent by Brand Kenya would be better directed at rescuing the costal tourism trade. Then we can “embrace each other”, Ms Kimonye.

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