Innovating for Sustainable Cultural Tourism; Nomadic cultural experiences


Culture is defined as ideas, beliefs, social behavior and a way of life that is shared among a group of people. Culture can be passed down from one generation to the next. It can be manifested through symbols, clothing, food, dance and even the type of housing people live in. Culture connects people with nature and indigenous knowledge offers solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Culture through responsible cultural tourism experiences can be used as a tool for sustainable development, especially for marginalized communities in rural areas. Cultural tourism promotes local spending by tourists, promotes preservation of identity, creates opportunity for appreciation of a people’s culture which gives room for peace and inclusivity. Cultural tourism also allows for better protection of the environment by allowing retention of indigenous knowledge and cultural practices that have allowed man to co-exist and evolve peacefully with nature.

Nomadic tourism, an experiential form of cultural tourism that is suited for remote desert like destinations, presents a great opportunity to end poverty among nomadic communities in Northern Kenya as well as diversifying Kenya’s tourism product, key requirements for a competitive and sustainable tourism destination. Careful destination planning is therefore essential. Careful destination planning will define limits of acceptable change to prevent culture loss, promote authenticity, reduce natural resource competition and manage environmental degradation. Carefully destination planning will also ensure that there is equity in benefit sharing to allow for wealth creation among these communities. Lastly careful destination planning will ensure accessibility of the nomadic tourism products by means of promotion and infrastructure.

Is nomadic tourism being practiced in Northern Kenya, is it attractive enough to be considered a viable travel experience, is careful destination planning missing in the region and can we become innovative with moving experiences?

These were the questions 287 students from 6 Universities in Kenya and 4 tourism organizations tried to answer during the 6th Inter-University Seminar on Sustainable Tourism that was held at Chuka University in Kenya.

Emerging Issues

Adventure desert tourism vs Nomadic tourism experiences. It was clear that there was a growing demand for travel experiences in Northern Kenya, especially among millennials. However, the demand was not for Nomadic cultural experiences but for desert like adventures. Nomadic tourism in Kenya was only experienced during events like Maralal Camel Derby. These events were not enough to attract travelers to this region specifically for nomadic tourism. There is also a question if these events could promote enough local spending that would allow for significant economic development among the local nomadic communities. Other potential adventure tourism experiences that could be developed in these region include quad biking safaris, helicopter safaris and camel riding safaris, unique desert accommodation experiences.
Commercialization vs Authenticity. Selling of cultural could actually lead to commoditization and loss of authenticity. There was a question of which elements of culture should be commercialized to prevent loss of an entire culture, the physical or the abstract? and does cultural tourism have limits of acceptable change or no change should be allowed to happen at all to preserve authenticity of a culture?
Nomadic tourism and economic development of a destination. While nomadic tourism may present an opportunity for development of remote desert like destinations, it requires movement with the community from one destination to the other. Stay in a particular destination lasting sometimes lasting less than a day, week or month before moving to the next due to the mobile nature of these communities. Is this an advantage for the spread of spending in different destinations or is it a disadvantage because the spending may be insignificant for a particular destination for significant economic development?
Challenges vs Viability. It  also emerged that Northern Kenya is also disadvantaged in terms of development to make nomadic tourism viable stand alone experience. A lot of challenges need to be addressed before Nomadic tourism is developed. Some of these challenges include Inadequate infrastructure, Insecurity, Illiteracy, uneven distribution of benefits from wildlife based tourism, urbanization leading to sedentary lifestyles, lack of policies that support sustainable destination planning in the region among others.
Nomadic Tourism and Diversification. Sadly, nomadic tourism needs more diversification in order to make it more marketable to the average tourist. However, there are some limitations to diversifying nomadic tourism; this include narrow product line, short life cycle, this also depends on transitory attractions that is time and distance must be planned for. There is also no practical framework and the impact on the community and the environment cannot be measured. For nomadic tourism to be truly sustainable it has to follow all the three pillars of sustainability.

Recommendations by Students.

1. Before thinking about creating nomadic tourism experiences in Northern Kenya, the government and stakeholder should first ensure that these communities have access to basic needs and social services. The community cannot prioritize tourism when they do not have access to clean water or healthcare services. After providing access to thse needs and social services through other means including policy that promotes fair distribution of wealth, then nomadic tourism can be introduced to help these communities further lift themselves out of poverty.
2. Research is missing on cultural tourism development and models that allow for investigation specifically related to cultural tourism are limited. Without research nomadic tourism development presents a is a huge challenge.
3. Commercialization of culture can be allowed but with limits of acceptable change that prevent commoditization of the same. These limits of acceptable change should identify which elements of culture should be commercialized. A suggestion was art only.
4. There is need to build capacity of communities to acquire tourism business management skills. This will ensure benefits are retained by the community.
5. A carefully designed destination plan for should be developed for Northern Kenya which includes creation of nomadic tourism experiences.


Reinventing of cultural tourism is important and creation of niche products like nomadic tourism is essential. This will require innovation creation of cultural experiences, innovation in its accessibility and innovation in its promotion. Cultural tourism provides opportunities for sustainable development of remote desert like destinations. However, when culture is commercialized, mitigation measure should be put in place to manage its commoditization to prevent loss of authenticity and considerations should also be taken in order to ensure that the local communities are stakeholders who benefit from their culture.
However, before any type of cultural tourism is developed, it must be ensured that the custodians of that culture are in a happy state and can be able to access basic needs and social services first.


Students Presentations

Nomad Tourism Development- the Northern Kenya. Presented by Judy of Chuka University

Challenges in promoting cultural tourism in the destination Kenya. Presented by Ruth of The Nairobi University

Organization, Institutions and Business Presentations

Overview of cultural tourism and its significance in sustainable tourism for development. Presented by Job Odhiambo of Sustainable Travel and Tourism Agenda Ltd.

Reinventing cultural tourism for millennial travelers. Presented by Phoebe Munyoro of Beads Safaris Collection

Iconic nomadic tourism experiences in Northern Kenya. Presented by Alan Dixson of Let’s Go Travel Uniglobe.
Future policy directions in the Northern Kenya Frontier. Presented by Dr. Muriuki of Chuka University


A part from the presenters Emmanuel Ngumbi from African Fund for Endangered Special as well as faculty for Dedan Kimathi University, Kenya Methodist University and Amboseli Institute of Hospitality and Technology participated as panelist.

Session Moderators

Felix Onsando Abel a student from Kenya Methodist University
Isaiah Kakami a student from Zetech University

Universities in Attendance

1. Chuka University-The Hosts
2. Dedan Kimathi University of Technology
3. United States International University-Africa
4. The University of Nairobi
5. Zetech University
6. Kenya Methodist University

Total students in attendance; 287

The inter-university seminars is an activity of the the Knowledge Safe Space of the STTA Young Change Makers Program

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