When Theresa May, the British prime minister, touched down in Nairobi with a group of business leaders in her wake and keen to talk about championing investment in Africa, she was following in the footsteps of a British company, Bench Events.
Bench Events is the creator and organiser of the Africa Hotel Investment Forum, which is the premier tourism investment conference in Africa, attracting many prominent international hotel owners, investors, financiers, management companies and their advisers.
It will return to Nairobi on October 2nd-4th, having previously been staged in the Kenyan capital in 2012 and 2013.
Jonathan Worsley, chairman, Bench Events, said: “We have been promoting the economic potential of Africa and Kenya for the past eight years; so, I am delighted to see the British prime minister following in our footsteps.
“For several countries in Africa, and certainly Kenya, tourism is a very important export industry, with enormous potential for sustained growth.”
According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, tourism is responsible for 10.4 per cent of global GDP and 313 million jobs.
In 2017, the sector grew at 4.6 per cent, much faster than the global economy as a whole, which grew at three per cent, and it created one in five of all new jobs across the world.
For the tourism and hospitality industry, Africa in general and Kenya in particular, are increasingly important destinations.
Here, economic growth is higher than many countries in the developed world; so, investments have the potential to increase in value much faster.
In addition, when it comes to the number of hotels per capita of population, Africa is far, far behind places like Europe and the USA; so, if the market follows international trends, the demand for hotel accommodation is bound to explode over the coming decades.
Kenya is particularly attractive because it is home to one of Africa’s few hub airports.
It is a safari destination in which it is possible to see all the big five, lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard.
It borders the Indian Ocean to the east and Lake Victoria to the west.
A new railway line, recently opened, now connects both sides of the country.
That is likely to become an increasingly important route for trade and for tourism.
Today, attracting international investment is a competitive business.
International investors want to know that if they invest, they will be able to cash in their investments if things go well and repatriate the profits.
They want to feel confident that their assets will not be nationalised; they want to have confidence in the rule of law; they want to avoid running in to corruption and they want to find local partners they can rely on.
Tax breaks and other incentives are also high on their wish list.
It is for these reasons that Kenya’s vabinet secretary with responsibility for tourism, Naib Balala, will announce a package of investment incentives at AHIF.
His initiative is likely to be rewarded as the chief executives and other senior executives from the world’s biggest hotel chains, such as Accor, Hilton, Marriott and Radisson will all be present at AHIF along with a plethora of top executives, high-level advisors, professional investors and the media.
Jonathan Worsley concluded: “If May is keen to see a rapid follow-through of her initiative, a smart move would be to send a UK-government backed delegation to AHIF – something we would welcome with open arms.”