STTA and University of Brighton partnered to support sustainability and resilience of tourism MSMEs in Kenya in the wake of the significant impacts of covid-19 pandemic on travel and tourism. The partnership builds capacity of tourism MSMEs in Kenya, under the membership of Tour Operators Society of Kenya (TOSK), to adapt to changing situations while supporting creation of sustainable tourism value chains that favor progressive MSMEs growth. Together, STTA and the University of Brighton have been holding sustainable tourism webinars, carrying out research and sourcing for funding for the benefit of tourism MSMEs in Kenya.
Kenya’s tourism value chain is highly supported by tourism MSMEs. Competitiveness and resilience of Kenya as a tourism destination depends on growth of the MSMEs and their ability to offer quality services and adapt to changing environments. Due to their size and character, tourism MSMEs in Kenya had faced challenges in accessing international markets and were the most affected by the covid-19 pandemic which impacted on both domestic and international travel.
In collaboration with the CBI, University of Brighton and with the support of TOSK, STTA facilitated a workshop on market access and webinars on crisis communication, risk management and resilience building for tourism MSMEs in Kenya. STTA and the University of Brighton also carried out a survey to understand the challenges of tourism MSMEs in Kenya pre covid-19 and during covid-19. The aim of the survey was to understand challenges faced by tourism MSMEs Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) in Kenya and how these challenges affected their ability to withstand and adapt to changing situations in tourism, including shocks like covid-19. The survey was carried out from July 2020 and the report expected to be released in November 2020. Findings from the survey will be used to design resilience and sustainability support programs that will benefit tourism MSMEs under the membership of Tour Operator Society of Kenya (TOSK).
The partnership enabled internal and external capacity building. While 4 of our STTA team members gained further skills on advanced research methods and mentorship practices, 177 MSMEs were trained on crisis communication, crisis responses, and techniques for resilience building to date. In addition to this, 120 SMEs trained on market access, with focus on European consumers.
What did the program mean for MSMEs?
• MSMEs’ recognition by government – TOSK received full registration status as an industry membership association by the State Department for Tourism in Kenya in June 2020. They had been on provisional registration status pending fulfilment of specific requirements which the acceleration program helped them to achieve.
• In May 2020, TOSK was invited to contribute to the national taskforce on COVID19 protocols. In addition, they were asked to share their own recommendations based on members operations. As a result of the on-going work and the mentioned survey conducted in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Brighton, STTA supported TOSK executive in formulating a response and delivering on this task.
• MSMEs have embraced sustainability practice through affordable online training programs. Since launching the virtual trainings in August 2020, STTA has trained representatives of MSMEs organisation not only in Kenya, but also from across the globe and several other MSMEs.
• Kenyan MSMEs are now able to access economic stimulus packages. TOSK continues to engage the Kenyan agency charged with disbursement of COVID19 relief funds to lobby for support for members.
• Product diversification – TOSK continues to be engaged by the destination marketing agency to explore new products and experiences. They have been supported in exploring ‘paths least travelled’, without relying on their own limited funds to do this.
• MSMEs have been empowered and their ability to negotiate and better communicate their needs has been enhanced through the partnerships with relevant national and international stakeholders supporting of their cause.
Before the crisis, STTA did not envision the MSMEs’ acceleration program being of relevance beyond Kenya and our partnership with University of Brighton, enabled us to exchange knowledge about the broader COVID19 crisis and identify additional priorities, which needs to be addressed in other parts of the continent, with great relevance to the European context to.
The next step is to scale up this initiative through mutually beneficial partnerships that will support innovative sustainable and responsible tourism interventions post-COVID19 and beyond.