Nairobi… Kenya’s first ever E-Tourism Conference, hosted by the Tourism Trust Fund, was held today, attracting over 150 delegates from the ICT and tourism sectors.  Safaricom, Accesskenya and Kenya Airways were sponsors to the conference.

The conference was opened by Hon. Mutahi Kagwe, the Minister for Information and Communication. Hon Kagwe stressed the need for both the public and private sector in tourism to work together and utilize all forms of online technologies.

“There is a very real threat to the long term sustainability of our tourism sector, if we fail to invest in and utilize technology to stay competitive. There has been a phenomenal increase in online bookings, which now dominate the global tourist business, and many of our competitors are taking advantage of increased use of online communication, web based booking portals and web based marketing. If Kenya does not embrace this new technology soon, it risks being left behind. This conference presents an important opportunity to address and reverse this situation”, said Hon Kagwe.

Also attending was the Minister for Tourism and Wildlife, Hon Morris Dzoro.

  The main purpose of the conference was to raise awareness about e-tourism, web based marketing, information management and online communication. The conference examined ways that both the public and private sectors could work together especially in establishing an online booking portal. With more than 100 million travelers worldwide now using the web to book holidays and travel, it is vital that the Kenya tourism sector is highly visible on the Internet.

International speakers such as Dr Rodger Carter, a consultant with the WTO, (World Tourism Organization) Mr. Al Karaki, former E Business Manager with SATOUR in South Africa, discussed how South Africa made strong use of the internet to market the country and Mr Ahmed Kassam from Microsoft Africa, discussed the creation of an African regional Tourism portal by 2010.

Dr Dan Kagagi, the CEO of the Tourism Trust Fund, highlighted the need for the tourism sector – both public and private, to embrace e tourism and to channel more money into web based marketing and online communication.

“The tourism sector must invest in the web. The consequences for the Kenya tourism sector are quite dire if we find ourselves falling into this growing digital divide between the developed and developing world. Today gives us a great opportunity to catch up and get back into the digital race”, said Dr Kagagi.