Magical Kenya Travel Expo (MKTE) 2022 was a great indication that travel is back, and that Africa is ready and waiting to host travellers from the world over. The 160 hosted buyers from some of Kenya’s key source markets and over 20 hosted media that attended MKTE were invited to #rediscoverthemagic with a selection of 5-day pre-show tours that included safari, beach, cultural and urban experiences. Buyers and media alike were enthralled by the diversity and the ‘magic’ of this diverse country, and the enthusiasm of the destinations visited.

The 3-day Expo, hosted at the Bomas of Kenya, gave the 225 exhibitors showcasing not only #magicalkenya, but other southern and east African countries the perfect platform to expose their tourism businesses to not only the hosted buyers and media, but to many other industry partners from within Africa and beyond. some of Kenya’s key source markets in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

MKTE’s venue, Bomas of Kenya, offered delegates the opportunity to experience the rich and diverse culture of Kenya in an outdoor setting, and the addition of a Maasai Village shopping experience added a great vibe and wonderful local craft, from curios and keepsakes, to clothing, laptop bags, handbags made from repurposed leather jackets, and much more.

In addition to the scheduled B2B meetings, there were many opportunities for meaningful conversation between exhibitors and visitors, all as excited as the other that tourism is back after a torrid couple of years for the industry. There were interesting seminars to keep delegates up to speed with current trends, such as ‘Airline Access’, ‘Sustainability & Inclusive Tourism’, ‘E-Travel’ and The Future of Tourism and Resilience’ – all of much interest to delegates.

Additionally, we had the opportunity to see the very first screening of the Kasigau Corridor Redd++ Documentary. The Kasigau Corridor project in the Tsavo Ecosystem is a pioneer in wildlife conservation protecting large herds of elephants and its habitats, as well as provide employment and financial security to local communities through its offset programme.

For me personally as Responsible Traveller, I loved the opportunity to discover Magical Kenya, not only during my time in the Shaba National Park area and Lake Nakuru National Park, but also the many hours spent getting to the destinations. Travelling through rural villages and small towns I was once again overwhelmed by the desperate need for tourism to make a difference. The knowledge that each local person employed probably has at least 10 people depending on them, and that if each tourism related business employed from their local community and committed to improving skills through education and mentoring how much of a difference tourism could make to individuals and families in these small towns and villages.

And if travellers would commit to choosing locally owned accommodation and experiences where possible, how much more of the tourism spend would stay in-country filtering down through owners, employees, suppliers etc. to local communities. Imagine the difference that would make!

But, back to MKTE… I was delighted to discover some wonderful new locally owned tourism products, both in Kenya, and in the regional counties that were exhibiting.

A few of the Kenyan products I discovered were the fun and quirky Social House in Nairobi, the fabulous Emboo River in Kenya’s Maasai Mara with their silent solar-powered safari vehicles and commitment to sustainability, the conservation and community focused El Karama Lodge on the foothills of Mt Kenya, as well as the sustainable programmes offered by One Horizon Africa that support Kenya’s local communities as well as providing unique and memorable experiences for travellers, to name just a few.

Tanzania’s community conscious Lemala Camps with their wonderfully successful Reusable Sanitary Pad project enabling young girls to remain in school (amongst other great community initiatives), Zanzibar’s The Zanzibar Collection with its commitment to sustainability and employing locally, Rwanda’s G-Step Tours and their wonderful community coffee tour benefitting the local women who grow coffee on the hills above Lake Kivu, and Uganda’s locally owned DMC Gorilla Walking Safaris, who offer authentic local experiences in addition to their fabulous gorilla walking experiences. As well as Ethiopia’s Absolute Ethiopia Tours with their offering of historical and cultural authentic experiences that benefit local communities – one that is definitely on my wish list!

All in all, a fabulous event, with three days of great meetings and much networking, as well as the opportunity to discover why Kenya is indeed Magical!  A destination travellers will want to add to wish list, and an event that those selling this beautiful region need to add to their calendar for 2023 – generally held in the first week of October.