Focus shifts to influencer marketing to boost tourism

Thursday, January 28th, 2021 00:00 |
Flag off of the second phase of the Tembea Tujenge Kenya Initiative campaign on Friday. Photo/PD/HARRIET JAMES

Harriet James @harriet86jim

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic early last year in the country caused not only a health and humanitarian crisis, but also economic shocks.

It initiated an undeniable call to action for the travel industry to rapidly assess these fast-changing developments, and the ensuing impact on their customers, and their organisations. 

Passenger travel and tourism is a public health hazard, as well as a global economic problem and travel brands are now making rapid decisions that will affect their very survival.

One such move is the recent launch of Tembea Tujenge Kenya, which was launched last week to inspire more Kenyans to explore the country.

Supported by corporates, such as Sarova Hotels, Vivo Energy Kenya’s Shell and Isuzu East Africa, the initiative also aims to market Kenya to Kenyans giving them options when it comes to searching for affordable destinations as well as hotel facilities for the industry’s sustainability.  

Realiance on foreign tourists 

“Travel will soon become more difficult because there is talk of a vaccine passport and we are going to rely on our normal market.

Only regional tourism will save us since our staple market in Europe and the United States, which have been shut down by the pandemic,” said renowned Radio presenter Maina Kageni who is also the initiative’s ambassador. 

Maina adds most Kenyans spend nearly Sh10,000 to Sh20,000 every weekend on drinks and entertainment, money which is enough for them to tour and see amazing destinations in the country.

“When we rely on foreigners for tourism we will always suffer from that cycle.

The first phase of Tembea Kenya was a huge success and during  the pandemic, I asked myself, why don’t we do it again because thankfully the pandemic has not affected us the way it has the Europeans countries,” he explained. 

Effects of the pandemic have led to closure of major hotels, such as Dusit, Fairmont and Intercontinental Hotel.

Advertising a destination through influencers has recently been one of the most popular marketing tactics.

Influencers, in this case, are people who have built a large network of followers and are regarded as trusted tastemakers in one or several niches.

And what separates them from traditional celebrities, is influencers being ‘regular people’, who have achieved influencer status by the creation of content in social platforms, such as Instagram. 

Last year, regional low-cost carrier Jambojet partnered with influencers to launch a campaign dubbed,  ‘Now travel ready’, whose aim was to encourage domestic travel in its destinations. 

Tour firms too, are using renowned personalities to market the various tour packages that they have to the locals. 

Create awareness

 Local tour company Bountiful Safaris, for example, has engaged influencers, such as Timothy Kimani (Njugush) and his family, Abel Mutua and his family and gospel artiste Linet Munyali aka Size 8 reborn and her family to market their travel brand.

“I have never regretted using influencers to market my brand. They are the face of the brand and assist in creating awareness.

They show the real experience of travelling with a particular tour company, such as ours to their audience,” explains Esther Njoroge, CEO Bountiful Safaris.

Maiyan Villas CEO Omar Ikram, has also recorded positive growth ever since they began using influencers to market their hotel.

“What we look for in an influencer is someone with a good reach of people, and also since Maiyan means God’s blessing, we look for influencers with good public image,” he explains.

Sankara Nairobi, Autograph Collection general manager Krishna Unni incorporated using influencers in their marketing plan just before the pandemic. According to Krishna, one must be careful to ensure that they choose the right influencers.

“You need to choose your right influencers; are they micro or macro-influencers?

Influencers do play an important role and it depends on what you want to achieve or what exactly your goal is,” he explains.

“We look for someone who has the same beliefs and values as us,” he adds.

Maina says influencers just tell their followers what’s happening, and they will buy into it, “For me, when it comes to this initiative, my only aim is to make Kenyans understand the options available when it comes to tourism in Kenya,” says Maina.

Recorded high numbers

Since they began engaging hotels, most of them have recorded growth. For instance, Benard Itebete, Sarova  Hotels corporate sales manager says the initiative has resulted in the rise in the number of guests visiting not only their hotel, but others too.

“Places, such as Nakuru, Amboseli, Mombasa have seen a rise in the number of guests through the initiative,” he says 

Another hotel that has recorded growth is Ol Tukai lodge. “We were the first ones to start the initiative in October.

Two weeks later, we were 100 per cent full and in December we were operating at around 70 per cent occupancy.

The numbers went higher during Christmas period as they were operating at 100 per cent due to the initiative,” says John Wambugu, sales and marketing manager Ol Tukai lodge.

For Isuzu, one of the Tembea Tujenge Kenya sponsors, using influencers has helped them to boost their sales, particularly in this tough period.

In partnership with the Kenya Tourism Board and the Ministry of Tourism, they desire to market destinations to Kenyans.

Their brand ambassador Eliud Kipchoge was recently appointed as a tourism ambassador by Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, which further intersects their interests in tourism.

“We look forward to a wonderful campaign as we currently have put into the campaign two outstanding D-max vehicles and also two Isuzu M-ux, which is a seven-seater family car and finally we have given a vehicle that we have locally assembled called the Isuzu MPS game viewer, which can seat up to 12 people during a game drive,” said Isuzu Communication manager Dancun Muhindi. .

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