Kenya has started a tourism marketing campaign targeting theatre goers in four European countries as the country seeks to lock-in its biggest tourism industry source market, Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism officials says.
Europe accounts for 47 percent of an estimated 1.78 million tourists visiting Kenya every year. Tourism industry generates slightly over 1.2 billion U.S. dollars in revenue every year – among the biggest foreign exchange earners including tea and horticulture exports, data from the ministry indicates. “This is part of our marketing diversification in foreign markets. It is the first time we are using culture to market our destination,” Kenya Tourism Minister Najib Balala told a media briefing on Thursday in Nairobi.
The Kenya tourism marketing project will be handled by a European company known as Peter Ultee Productions. It is christened “Out of Africa: Kenya Musical Theatre Show”. The marketing campaign involves training 18 Kenyan youths in musicals that will be showcased in 70 theatres across Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg and Netherlands. “We are sure to reach 70,000 potential visitors,” said Balala. He said despite the sovereign debt crisis in some European countries, the tourism flow from that region to Kenya is still steady. “We cannot ignore the region just because of the crisis there, things will change,” he said.
The minister said the production will also afford an opportunity for Kenyans actors and actresses to learn from the theatre industry which remains vibrant, despite the growth registered in the film industry over the years. “Our research has demonstrated that over and above the many tourist destinations and attractions in our country, the warmth and friendliness of Kenyans, and the deep cultural attributes that we exude, are some of the key attributes that continue to draw tourists to Kenya,” he said.
Kenya has traditionally depended on use of documentaries, flyers, tourism and trade exhibitions, bill boards and branding buses and trains in Europe to advertise the tourism offerings. The theatre plan marks a break from the traditional methods of marketing. “With this production, we will therefore have an unmatched opportunity to showcase the beauty of our culture and this is one of the creative ways through which we are now marketing the country in both the traditional and emerging markets,” he said.
Ministry officials said the concept is similar to that used in South Africa where musical groups tour Europe to entertain and also explain to the audience about their country.
“In New York, tourists come to watch gospel musicals and this is what we would want to achieve here,” the minister told a news conference in Nairobi. “The people selected to present musicals in Europe will tell the story of Kenya. The audience will be interested to know where they come from. It will be a direct communication rather than use of the documentaries. It will be a showcase of the people of Kenya,” said Peter Ultee, the CEO and producer of Peter Ultee Production.
Auditions for Kenyans who will present the musicals will start on March 19. They will be trained until September when they leave for Europe. “We are looking at having 70 shows, treating an audience of more than 40,000 people to an exceptional and exhilarating 90 minute production that will bring out the very positive attributes that would attract them to choose Kenyan over other countries that have tourism products,” Ultee said. The trained Kenyans are expected to influence local theatre scene after their exposure in Europe and the government said it sees the project as part of skills transfer.
Training and preparations by the musicals group will be done locally to enable as many Kenyan suppliers as possible benefit from the chain. “Kenya is pursuing different ways of marketing her tourism wealth. While our usual marketing approaches have been working very well, we must be more creative to sustain growth,” said Muriithi Ndegwa, the Managing Director of Kenya Tourism Board.
The musical group will subsequently perform in Kenya, becoming an addition to the nascent culture tourism offered by the local market. Kenya is mainly known for wildlife and beach tourism but has huge cultural tourism potential as diverse ethnic groups have unique cultural practices that can attract tourists including bull fighting in Western Kenya and age-groups graduation ceremonies among the Maasai among others.
Ultee said that the production work begins next week when auditions will be held at the Kenya National theatre to identify the most suitable 18-man cast that will work with professional theatre directors from Netherlands to produce the musical. “We are confident that by working with Braeburn Theatres, Sterling Quality Productions and the Kenya national theatre, we will find a talented pool of actors and actresses who will bring this production to life, and contribute significantly to meeting our collective aspirations,” said Ultee.
The production comes at a time when the Kenya Tourist Board is focusing on the diversification of the tourist offerings to go beyond the beach and safari products that Kenya has been known for in most source markets. “At the moment we have a very vibrant conference tourism product, sports tourism is gaining currency and we appreciate the growth that we have seen in cultural tourism,” Ndegwa said. He said the production will give the marketing body yet another platform to market these new offerings in Europe which remains one of the biggest source markets for Kenya, accounting for up to 40 percent of all tourist arrivals over the years.
Source: TheNew Times