Making ecotourism market-viable in East Africa

02 September 2011 | Article

IUCN, in partnership with Kuoni, the Swiss travel company, organized a training workshop for the conservation community in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, to build business skills and share experiences for successful ecotourism development.

The training, jointly convened by IUCN, the Swiss Federal office for the Environment, Kuoni and Private Safaris, aimed to promote the transfer of skills between tourism professionals and the conservation community as a first step to making ecotourism development market-viable. It covered 6 themes:

  • (i) Market context – focusing on providing a better understanding of the tourism industry in East Africa and how it is set up including features of the destination and the key players involved;
  • (ii) Ecotourism Potential – providing information on the market requirements that make a destination interesting and a product commercially viable;
  • (iii) Business Planning – summarizing the key elements that need to feature in a business plan, including, setting up the business, making it economically viable, financial planning and staff management;
  • (iv) Sustainability – giving an overview of sustainability from a business perspective as well as a set of criteria for the sustainability of a tourism business;
  • (v) Health & Safety – drawing upon the regulatory environment of the tourism industry with regards to health and safety to better inform tourism product design;
  • (vi) Marketing, Sales and Customer care – explaining the marketing process from product development, to targeting the right market segments and to distribution through mainstream channels.

The training took place from 20 to 24 June in Nairobi, Kenya and brought together 35 participants from approximately 20 organizations located in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. The participation included conservation organizations, community organizations and protected area managers. For each theme, tourism professionals from Private Safaris/Kuoni, presented the key elements for success in the theme and highlighted practical steps for implementation of their recommendations. The presentations illustrated through individual and group exercises where participants were invited to apply the learning and share their experiences. The classroom element of the workshop was complemented by a field visit to ecotourism businesses developed by two of the participants: the African Conservation Centre and the South Rift Association of Land Owners. Participants provided very positive feedback about the four days particularly concerning the instructors and the field visit.

This workshop is integrated into the wider project entitled “Supporting Ecotourism Businesses for Conservation”. The project aims capitalize on the wealth of knowledge and experience that exists in the tourism industry to help design successful ecotourism products. The project is organized into three steps:

  1. Understand the context (market and natural)
  2. Build capacity – “Integrating business skills into ecotourism operations” workshop
  3. Further support organizations to bring their products to the market

Step three of the project aims to ensure continuity of the learning from the workshop and provide additional skills to ecotourism businesses in the region. IUCN and Kuoni/Private Safaris will continue its collaboration and will join forces with key players in the region to establish a platform for exchanging experiences and marketing of conservation organizations developing ecotourism businesses.

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