CHAIR OF BOARD KENYA TOURISM BOARD
Jimi Kariuki was first appointed to the KTB Board on 18th March 2016 in recognition of his vast experience in the tourism sector spanning three decades. This appointment was subsequently renewed in May 2019 for a further three-year term.
With an able and supportive Board of Directors comprising key industry players as well as a well-educated and experienced workforce, Jimi Kariuki’s leadership footprints can be spotted in the tourism eco-system.
Upon appointment, Jimi immediately spearheaded the recruitment of a substantive Chief Executive Officer for the organization. This was achieved in December 2016 with the coming on board of Dr. Betty Radier, a seasoned marketing professional. The duo then laid a solid foundation for the implementation of the Board’s long-term strategy.
The Board and Management thereafter embarked on a comprehensive review of the destination marketing strategy that had remained unchanged for a number of years. Through an international destination marketing consultancy based in Madrid, KTB was able to develop a new, well-researched and world-class destination marketing strategy to guide its marketing efforts in the next decade. Included in this review was an overhaul of the marketing function within the organization to bring it in line with global best practice in destination marketing. This marketing strategy was also entrenched in the KTB Corporate Strategic Plan that the Board developed to guide the organization for the five-year period 2018-2023.
Subsequently, the fruits of these foundational efforts by the Board under Jimi’s chairmanship have been realized.
Notably, in 2019, the tourism arrivals into the destination were recorded at 2,048,834. Compared to 2016 numbers of 1,342,899 arrivals, this was a recorded growth of 52.6 per cent and also significant by being above the 2million visitor mark.
Revenues from tourism also grew steadily, continuing to earn much-needed foreign currency for Kenya. 2019 revenues saw significant growth to close at 162.1bn being the best ever recorded tourism forex earnings, a growth of 62.6% over 2016 numbers of 99.7bn. Similar growth was seen in the consumption of domestic bed-nights by local travelers with the highest recorded number of bed-nights by domestic tourists hitting 4,047,000 in 2019 compared to 3,495,926 in 2016, a growth of 15.8%. Sadly however, 2020 saw the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic deeply erode and reverse these gains. It is, however, expected that Kenya and other tourism destinations globally will be able to slowly recover their tourism arrivals and revenues as global tourism gradually recover.
During the period from 2016 to date, the Board has steered the organization towards digital marketing in line with current consumer consumption trends. The result has been a significant shift in marketing resources allocated towards digital marketing in the region of 60 per cent of the organization’s total budget. Further, in recognition of the role that local and regional tourism plays in providing stability to tourism destinations globally, the Board has given more prominence to the domestic market through enhanced marketing budget allocations as well as aggressive “Tembea Kenya” and “Kenya Inanitosha” campaigns aimed at this market.
In 2019, the Board also put in place a collection of the destination’s signature experiences under the banner “Magical Kenya Signature Experiences”. Under this program, the destination’s premier experiences have been curated, recognized and promoted to domestic and international audiences. To-date, 44 of the destinations most magical experiences have been enrolled.
In response to numerous crises that the destination has faced in the period since 2016, the Board put in place revamped crisis management measures that can be deployed to counter the negative effects that such crises precipitate. These measures by the Board came in handy to counter the negative publicity generated by the 2017 disputed national elections as well as the unfortunate Dusit terror attack. More recently, these measures were deployed to communicate positive destination messaging and keep the destination visible in the minds of consumers following the global Covid-19 Pandemic under the “Safe Travels” initiative.
Significant growth has also been recorded in the flagship destination expo, the Magical Kenya Travel Expo (MKTE) over the past five years. As at 2019, the show recorded 210 exhibitors and 150 hosted buyers, cementing its place as the region’s premier B2B expo. Sadly, the 2020 edition of MKTE was cancelled due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
In 2017, KTB commissioned an international firm based in Johannesburg to undertake a comprehensive revamp of the destination’s logo that had remained unchanged for over two decades. Out of this exercise emerged a refreshed and exciting new destination look that has been very well received locally and internationally.
With the realization of the power of sports to positively profile a destination, KTB under Jimi’s stewardship adopted a deliberate approach to leveraging major sporting events held in the destination and abroad to position the destination in the minds of consumers. This was successfully achieved through major events such as the Kenya Golf Open (which was renamed the Magical Kenya Golf Open in 2019), the World Under 18 championships, the WRC Safari Rally as well as major marathons held in various cities abroad. The bringing on board of global marathon superstar, Eliud Kipchoge as a Magical Kenya brand ambassador is instrumental in further leveraging this positive association between the destination and sports.
With the realization that stakeholder and industry partnerships are key in helping KTB meet its mandate, the Board under Jimi’s leadership adopted a deliberate approach to forge strong and close links with the tourism private sector, government agencies providing vital services to the tourism sector as well as sister agencies within government. As a result, the period between 2016 to date has seen various stakeholder engagements with county governments, tourism associations and private sector players being held on a regular basis. Out of this, there have been tangible outcomes such as the Kenya Airways and Jambojet aircraft branding, SGR termini branding, airport buses branding, trade webinars, county engagement forums and many more.
These actions by the Board, and many others, in the last few years have not gone unnoticed and KTB has been awarded the title of Africa’s Leading Tourist Board several years in a row, in addition to the destination being recognized as the World’s Leading Safari Destination, also on several occasions.
Jimi Kariuki is no stranger to the tourism and hospitality industry in Kenya. Having spent 29 years of his professional career in the industry, he feels very honoured and privileged to have the opportunity to make contributions to this very important sector for the Country’s economy. Jimi Kariuki is the CEO of the Sarova Hotels and Resorts Group, a leading brand in the hospitality industry.
Jimi attended St. Mary’s School in Nairobi, Lenana School also in Nairobi and Kagumo High School in Kiganjo. Thereafter, he attended Huron University South Dakota for his under-graduate studies and graduated with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree. In 2007, he attended the UCT Graduate School of Business in Cape Town where he attained a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.