Tourism lacks a professional body to guide the conduct of its affairs.
The sector is a free-for-all arena, with non-professionals presiding over important decision-making on matters affecting its operations.
It is inconceivable that the situation has been allowed to persist for decades despite the immense contribution of the sector to the national economy.
Why has it taken so long for tourism to have a professional body?
I think the professionals in tourism are to blame. Unlike other established sectors such as the medical, legal, and educational fields, tourism professionals are a docile lot.
Most of them consider speaking out to be rude, yet no profession is given attention by policy makers unless those in it voice their concerns.
I am glad that the professionals have now started speaking about forming an umbrella body to provide a mouthpiece for the sector.
The Tourism Act explicitly provides for the formation of a professional association in the sector. Under the Act, the Toursim Regulatory Authority is mandated to facilitate and oversee the establishment of such bodies with the sole purpose of enhancing professionalism in the sector.
Tourism and hospitality professionals should seize the moment and form such associations.
As we embark on this important assignment, the drivers of the initiative must ensure that the process is well thought out and as inclusive as possible.
A rushed, shallow, and elitist idea will not work for the neglected sector. This situation has persisted because tourism professionals are not consulted on key decisions.
Capital owners are given prominence at the expense of the professionals.
With the steering committee already working on the technicalities of setting up an association, we should bear in mind the fact that the sector is diverse as far as the composition of professionals is concerned.
We have chefs, waiters, housekeepers, receptionists, food and beverage managers, and front office managers, among others, whose needs are quite unique. How will the association factor in their needs?
The association should be designed to embrace all sections of the sector. I believe that an all-inclusive association would represent the interests of all the members adequately. Making the professional body an exclusive club would be unfair to some members.
In addition, we must have a central certification or referral institute to set standards and certify sector practitioners. It is time for professionals to drive the tourism agenda in Kenya.