The just-ended international conferences held in Nairobi, Kenya, are yet another confirmation that Kenya remains a destination of choice for both business and leisure.
Last year, the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) in partnership with Ecotourism Kenya, placed a successful bid to host the Eco Tourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC) 2013. The three-day function, whose theme was “Tourism’s Role in Sustainable Community Development” saw 340 delegates with representation from over 40 countries congregate at the Safaripark Hotel in Nairobi.
The ESTC conference was first held in Kenya in 1997 and made a comeback about 20 years later after its inception. Participants were drawn mainly from the travel trade from ecotourism experts, tour operators, hotel and lodge operators, travelers, industry leaders, media, community stakeholders, and award-winning destination marketing firms, researchers, and governments. While opening the conference, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary in charge of East African Affairs, Commerce, and Tourism, Mrs. Phylis Kandie, reiterated that a key outcome would be delivering “innovative ways that would lead to better and stronger policies” to benefit stakeholders in ecotourism and sustainable tourism.
Kenya is highly rated by industry experts as an ecotourism destination globally, with over 100 private and community conservancies which provide the habitat for 70 percent of the country’s wildlife population. This was evident during the Eco Warriors awards that were hosted by Ecotourism Kenya as a curtain raiser to the conference. The awards saw various entries compete in categories that demonstrate best practices in ecotourism.
The ESTC 2013 concentrated on the advancement of sustainability goals, poverty eradication, and environment protection which recognizes ecotourism’s positive impact on sustainable community development efforts, opportunities and solutions for the tourism industry to support conserving natural areas, alleviating poverty, empowering women, enhancing education, and improving the health and well-being of local communities, among other issues. The forum further availed an opportunity to promote policies and practices benefiting businesses and communities and enforcing the role of sustainable tourism.
At the backdrop of the Westgate attack at the Intercontinental Hotel, Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events and organizer of the Africa Hotels Investment Forum (AHIF), confirmed that the conference would proceed as planned to prove that the terrorists would not succeed in disrupting lives. This was held with heightened security throughout the conference to enable delegates to the forum to achieve their objectives with ease.
Both conferences availed valuable learning and networking opportunities and provided an opportunity for the international community through the attending delegates to demonstrate their support for Kenya. It is important that the travel industry support Kenya at this difficult time, as terrorism is a global challenge that all nations must unite to fight.