Kenya’s government has urged tourism sector players to address the industry’s fragmented labour market in order to boost economic development in the East African nation.
Kenya’s tourism labour market is characterized as a seasonal, fragmented, multi-faceted service industry, with a large number of entry-level jobs.
This is according to a new analysis from the country’s Department of Tourism, a regulator for the travel industry.
The report was compiled with help from, among others, Mary Luseka, Strategy Manager at the Kenya Tourism Board and Lilian Ayimba, Chief Tourism Officer for the country’s Ministry of Tourism.
Dubbed the ‘National Tourism Strategy’, the analysis found that the seasonal nature of the tourism industry is contributing to the development of dual labour markets, comprised of core workers and peripheral ones.
“In many cases, employees view tourism as a gateway into the labour market,” said researchers who helped compile the report.
It has emerged that an estimated 60 percent of tourism employment is within the food and beverage, and accommodation sectors.
These are the areas most in need of a stable and skilled workforce. Although the tourism industry offers the first work experience for many people, the sector is sometimes ill-perceived as a career choice.
At the same time, the ability to attract skilled employees is critical to the industry’s growth.
Attractions, hotels, airlines, auto rentals, and entertainment are but a few areas that offer rewarding, long-term careers.
“The environment in which the industry operates requires tourism stakeholders to fundamentally shift their strategic approach not only to resolve long-standing issues but more importantly to effectively address current challenges and capitalize on new opportunities,” said the team.
Stakeholders have now been encouraged to reinforce the Kenya tourism industry as a high quality service sector.
“It is the combination of strong resources with high quality services that enables the Kenya tourism industry to offer its visitors good value for money. This requires a customer-focused approach, tourism infrastructure that meets international standards, good training in hospitality and motivated and knowledgeable staff,” said the team.
They also urged stakeholders to develop Kenya’s tourism sector in a sustainable manner; increase the value generated from available resources; create an environment conducive to tourism businesses; and develop an efficient transportation system for the sector.
Kenya’s vast territory and diverse geography pose an on-going transportation challenge for the tourism industry.
During stakeholder consultations, the researchers discovered concerns regarding the impact of an inadequate transportation system.
The high cost of air travel in Kenya’s remote areas and limited transportation options, especially by rail and ferry, affect the ability of tourism operators to Department of Tourism their products.
There is also a need to better integrate the national transportation system to allow passengers to connect easily between modes of transportation, whether they are travelling by bus, boat, plane, train or automobile to or from other points within and outside Kenya.
“To this end, Kenya and other East African Community partner states should agree on action plans to address border processes, invest in border infrastructure, and identify technological solutions to speed movement across the border while ensuring security,” said the team.