A new professional trade body is in the final stages of incorporation in Kenya, finally bringing together in an organized way a very large number of tourism practitioners and managers from all the various segments which make up the tourism industry.
Mr. Sam Ikwaye has been interacting with this correspondent for several days now to explain the setup, purpose, and legal foundation of the new tourism body, which will not be restricted to just one sub-sector but be open for anyone who qualifies for membership, be it from the hotel sector from which Sam comes, or any other area like safari operations, attractions, conservation areas, tourism training institutions, and more.
The exchange was triggered after coming across some media information about a final preparatory meeting at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi which followed similar consultative sessions across much of Kenya.
Explained Sam about the Nairobi meeting:
“The forum intends to actualize the establishment of a Tourism Professionals’ and practitioners’ Association (TPA). It is envisaged that the body will be a unifying platform for all tourism and hospitality professionals as provided for under section 11 of the Tourism Regulatory Authority regulations – 2014.
“Potential members of the body will comprise of all professionals, both practicing and academia, in tourism and hospital industry.
“The Tourism Fund has been supporting this initiative since inception. This is in line with its mandate of mobilizing resource to finance tourism related activities.
“Once operational, TPA will be a game changer in the industry as it will establish a platform for all tourism and hospitality professionals to contribute to the sustainable development of tourism and hospital profession.”
Further exchanges of mails shed yet more light on the new association in the making when Sam added further information about the preparatory work done and the focus and direction the new professional body is expected to take:
“So far, the interim committee has conducted sensitization forums in Coast region, Western region and Nakuru, nyeri and Nairobi where over 1,700 practitioners have been contacted and expressed their support to this new development.
We are currently working on programs to facilitate:
a) Establishment of programs that will build strong collaborative partnerships between industry, academia and government.
b) Realization of TRA’s mandate through TPA as provided for in TRA Regulations at Regulation 11 which provides:
(1) There is established a tourism professionals and practitioners’ body to be known as the Tourism Professional Association.
(2) The object and purpose for which the Association is established is to provide a framework for tourism professionals and practitioners for self-regulation.
(3) The Authority shall keep a register of all tourism professionals and practitioners.
(4) The Authority shall, in consultation with the Association and other relevant stakeholders, develop and implement tourism sector Code of Practice.”
Sam then went on to elaborate even further on the new association, when he raised a number of points important to understand where the KTP will be positioned and how it will work with existing tourism trade association which come together under the umbrella of the Kenya Tourism Federation:
“• Tourism Act: The act as cited above has made provisions and created a clear mandate for TPA in Kenya. We want to implement the Act and support the development of the industry.
“• Constitutions and devolution: With devolution and county arrangements, a lot of advocacy and lobbying is now concentrated at counties level. National outfits and associations may not fully realize national presence of representation of all tourism professionals. We are currently experiencing small associations forming in each corner of the country and regional groupings meaning that there is a gap in representation. As much as the new tourism act recognizes stakeholders representation in tourism boards in Kenya, we have the challenge that professionals away from Nairobi and Mombasa will get a chance of representations, but through TPA this national representation will be achieved.
“• Diversity of investment: More Kenyans are now owning hotels and accommodation and tourism facilities. New training institutions are also being set up every day. We are experiencing situations where standards of operating the hotels is being decided by the owners. In Kenya for example, you cannot build a hospital facility and run it without proof of professional doctors being in charge. You still cannot run a law firm without certification of a trained and certified lawyer. BUT we allow everyone as long as they have money to set up hotels or trainings institutions and set own standards and run them? Worse is when expatriates are employed with questionable credentials earning huge salaries and being in charge. Yes, TRA can handle this, but the tourism law requires that TPA works with TRA.
“EAC platform: Ongoing hotel classification in Kenya is being done together with other EAC countries. In a section on HR, for one to qualify for 3stars and above, the managers must be members of a professional body. This provision is in the EAC classification criteria. In essence, no hotel can achieve 3 stars in the absence of the professional body.
“• All trends world over for professionals to self-regulate: In Kenya, Human Resource Management, Public Relations, Lawyers and Doctors and even Teachers are all professional that have organized their professions and are recognized in law. Tourism, despite being the 2nd highest contributor to GDP is left to others to manage!”
It has also been confirmed that there are very few Professors in Kenya in the tourism and hospitality fields. This is attributed to lack of a clear carrier progression and as professionals, we want to ensure we preserve, protect and advance the profession. After 1st diploma, or degree, very few are going back to advance in the field or tourism and hospitality with Master’s Degrees or even Ph.Ds.
True enough, the new association in the making is not only provided for in law but there is indeed a strong case for professionals in the industry to finally come together and formulate solutions and lobby for those to be accepted by both government and the sectoral association.