ECOTOURISM KENYA YEAR IN REVIEW 2020

For the year in review 2020, we continued to implement our 2016 -2020 Strategic Plan. The report focuses on our Society’s achievements and as always, our main concern and focus has always been for members to see the value of being a part of the Society.

 

GREEN TOUR PROJECT

Ecotourism Kenya has been a key part of The Green Tour project which falls under the wider Switch Africa Green initiative. This is a dynamic EU funded project which aims to replicate tourism industry sustainability best practices into the Kenyan and wider African tourism supply chain.

{a. Curriculum Development of Theme Trainings Modules for sustainable tourism}

In mid-April 2020, EK & Kenya Association of Tour operators (KATO) together with the lead partner European Centre for Eco and Agro Tourism (ECEAT) developed online thematic training modules under the banner of Green Tour and Travelife. This led to the development of a training plan to promote sustainable tourism practice within the tourism industry.

EK then partnered with academia where tourism lecturers were selected to assist with the development of a curriculum for the training modules.

{b. Export Coaching Program Activities Progress}

24 companies participated in the Export Coaching Program with each coach taking charge of eight companies. The aim of this intense coaching is to help the business entity systematically take stock of their business process and plan how to optimise it to effectively benefit from the export market. The number of export audit reports and export marketing plans received by December 2020 were 15 and 19 respectively which is very commendable considering how involving the process is.

{c. Sustainability Coaching, Reporting and Certification}

From the beginning of 2020, EK partnered with Travelife to coach tour operator companies working towards both Partner and Certified levels. Travelife is an internationally recognised training, management and certification initiative for tourism companies committed to reaching sustainability.  The coaching was, however, affected by the onset of the COVID pandemic from mid-March. As a result, very few companies were able to keep up with the rigorous sustainability reporting. A few tour operators managed to stay the course for the entire year 2020. As of December, we had 19 tour operators in the program: 2 at Certified level, 6 at partner level, 11 at Engaged level. We were able to register 5 new companies in the program. We congratulate these companies for their resilience and commitment to developing a sustainable tourism business.

{d. Partnerships, Collaborations and MoUs within the GreenTour Project}

In its quest to make supply chains in tourism more sustainable, the Green Tour Project seeks out partnerships that bring on board organizations that can advance this cause in one way or another. In 2020, 5 MoUs were signed between GreenTour (EK, KATO & ECEAT) and

  • Kenya Red Cross Society,
  • Kenya Green Buildings Society (KGBS),
  • Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association (KPSGA),
  • Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers (KAHC)
  • Kenya Tour and Driver Guides Association (KTDGA).

{e. GreenTour Project Visibility}

The EK team has kept a committed timeline of social media postings on Green Tour Wednesdays and many of you have interacted with our postings. This has been greatly supported by EK’s communication team and project team in charge of content development. This enhances visibility of the project within the industry as well as promoting an understanding of the nuts and bolts of sustainable tourism business. I would like to encourage you to continue to keep updated on the activities and excellent opportunities we regularly post on social media. Remember to like, share and comment so we can continue to keep this conversation relevant.

EK  – SHE-TRADES COMMONWEALTH PARTNERSHIP

EK and the International Trade Centre (ITC) which is a joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations, signed an MoU under the SheTrades initiative for online digital marketing training of 60 women owned tourism businesses for a period of 5 months. Eight external trainers were recruited from our Leadership and Mentorship Program and 3 of them were hired to actively train the participants. This collaboration enabled EK to grow its business support skills portfolio which we will continue to use to support members businesses.

 

EK – WORLD VISION IMARA PROJECT PARTNERSHIP

Ecotourism Kenya collaborated with World Vision’s IMARA – (Integrated Management of Natural Resources for Resilience in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands program). The approach was for capacity building and strengthening of value chains that have the potential of cushioning communities against the impact of climate change. Target areas were Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo and Marsabit counties. The actual output of the engagement was training of 118 women on the basic tenets of ecotourism, innovative product development and effective stakeholder engagement for successful management of community enterprises. 15 self-help groups were trained in total.

{STANDARDS & BEST PRACTICES (SBP)}

{Compiling of Eco bytes}

As part of disseminating information on best practices in sustainability, the program compiled a total of 23 eco-bytes in the year under review. These topics provide bite-size information for quick reference.

{Case studies}

The program managed to compile a total of 5 case studies; 2 cases studies covered the pre-COVID period featuring Emboo Camp and Asilia Africa and 3 others covered the actual COVID pandemic period. Organizations featured include; Sunworld, Gamewatchers Safaris, Turtle Bay, Saruni and Sanctuary Olonana. The members showcased their key activities and best practice learning points as well as their coping strategies as sustainable businesses.

{Eco rating scheme site assessments}

As of November 2020, the program managed to conduct audits at 18 facilities in different regions across the country, among them 4 new facilities joined the scheme namely: Mara Nyika, Ol Pejeta Bush Camp, Bamburi Beach and Leopard Hill. The eco-rating team had planned to audit a total of 47 properties in the year 2020, however, due to the situation on the ground, majority had to be rescheduled to the period 2021/22.

Eco-rating Status Updates  

The status of all eco-rated facilities is available online on the EK website with a summarized site assessment audit report.  By the end of 2020, the status of certification for accommodation facilities stood at 87 (46 Gold, 38 Silver and 3 Bronze).

{Website Profiles of Eco-rated Facilities}

Updating of profiles for the Eco rated facilities in the current format on the website has been on-going through 2020 and all profiles are well updated. We encourage members to visit the sites to see the status.

  1. Kenya Signature Experiences Phase 2

Ecotourism Kenya partnered with KTB and was featured in Phase 2 of the magical Kenya Signature Experiences program. The initiative aimed at promoting a collection of unique, authentic and exceptional traveller experiences offered by tourism businesses in Kenya to global travellers; that are best aligned to Kenya’s unique selling proposition. One EK staff was nominated to join the team of evaluators undertaking desk audits and on-site audits in various parts of the country.

MEMBERSHIP, MARKETING AND COMMUNICATION PROGRAM

{Membership Renewal & Recruitment}

Low membership renewals in the period under review are partially attributed to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some members indicated that due to financial challenges occasioned by poor business performance they were unable to renew their membership. Despite the reality of the times, we still managed to recruit new members as highlighted.

  • Corporate members 59 (7 new)
  • Individual members 13 (6 new)
  • Community-Based 1 ( New)
  • Students 10

These numbers are very low and we have been implementing a membership drive to increase the numbers.

We have seen instant value from our new individual members many of whom have been actively involved in the activities of EK by providing their knowledge, skills and expertise to other members. We are grateful for this collaboration and look forward to building and supporting this resource.

Marketing and Communication

{Social media}

The social media platforms have been the most effective in disseminating information from Ecotourism Kenya.

The EK page on Twitter had an increase of 1,189 followers as of December 2020.  However, LinkedIn has been the most improved platform in the year 2020 with over 600 new followers.

{Ecotourism Kenya Website}

Ecotourism Kenya has an active website that has been a link to news on different projects and programs within the industry. To increase traffic to the site and add value to what visitors can experience once on our site, we invite our members to consider advertising their green businesses on our website. This will go a long way in demonstrating your role as a member of a community of sustainability practitioners, profile your service offering as well as support EK with our operational costs.

{WhatsApp Group for EK Members}

During the COVID-19 period most offices remained closed. EK set up a WhatsApp group for direct communication with the EK members through designated contact persons. The WhatsApp group remains active and we have found that this is an effective way of sending out information and reminders in a timely fashion in addition to being a discussion platform where different categories of members can communicate and share information. If you are not already a member of this platform please get in touch with the Secretariat who will assist you to get on board.

LEADERSHIP AND MENTORSHIP PROGRAM – LMP

Three times a year, Ecotourism Kenya conducts a training program for undergraduate trainees before the students proceeded for their industrial attachment. However, for the year 2020, there was only one intake. EK engaged 10 interns and 8 of them were sent out to member organizations and 2 were attached at the EK offices for their internships. Many internships were disrupted as several establishments either closed down or scaled down their operations.

 

What does the future hold for EK? As we go into 2021/22 we are very realistic about the difficult financial situation EK is facing but we remain optimistic about the activities we want to implement into the next reporting period 2021/22.  The focus of the new Strategic Plan will have emphasis on Community business support, Membership growth and benefits, Embracing technology in tourism business and emerging leaders and champions of sustainable tourism. We anticipate that despite the difficult period the industry has gone through in 2020 and the upcoming elections in 2022, we can still look forward to several activities taking place

  • Grant Opportunities: EK will continue to pursue grant opportunities to facilitate EK’s activities and influence policy, particularly in support for community initiatives, youth entrepreneurship and gender inclusivity. Collaborations currently under negotiation include partnerships with UNEP, Canadian Executive Services Organization (CESO) and Strathmore University, all in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife.
  • Green City Hotels Certification: Through collaboration with Tourism Fund and Travelife for Hotels which is a brand of Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), Ecotourism Kenya will be offering Travelife audits and certification for city hotels before the end of 2022.
  • Growing Partnerships and Building Capacity: EK will continue to provide diverse and innovative training for its members by collaborating with key stakeholders and partners. The year ahead will see the prioritization of partnerships with key members of the tourism value chain to promote sustainable practices.
  • Motor vehicle financing: EK is working on attracting well-wishers and/or donor financing to support the purchase of a new vehicle to facilitate field work. The vehicle will allow us to carry out our flagship activity which is Eco-rating as well as carry out community support activities more effectively. There is currently a reserve amount of 1million available towards this project.
  • Enhancing benefits for individual members: we are looking to attract more individual members and will be exploring how facilities and tour operators can offer discounted rates for individual members. This will be highlighted on our social media and will be a great way of advertising your service offerings while adding value to EK.
  • Ecorating Certification support and going digital: To support members in this difficult period, EK has effected an Ecorating Certification Fee reduction for the recovery period 2021/22. The Scheme will also seek to go digital to streamline the application process.
  • Last but not least, start our Strategic Planning process – As our strategic plan runs from 2016-2021, we have been thinking about our strategic focus and what part we play in facilitating and advocating for sustainable tourism business. We continue to look at where our strengths have been, and look at what opportunities lie ahead for EK. With the involvement of partners and members, we hope to define a new strategy for a brand new EK.

Thank you.

Mr Richard Ndiga,

Ecotourism Kenya Chairman