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The COAST Project Supports a Web-raising Training at the Watamu Demo Site

Web-raising is touted as a “best practice in enhancing the work of communities in the tourism industry”
The COAST Project Supports a Web-raising Training at the Watamu Demo Site

Watamu Marine Attractions


The COAST Project is working to showcase some of the global best practices and technologies that can enhance the growth and development of sustainable tourism in the coastal areas in nine countries in Africa (Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles and Tanzania). In order to provide support to the COAST Project countries by working to domesticate some principles of information technology in Africa, the project executed a web-raising training for representatives from the Watamu Demo Site (Kenya) and Kribi Demo Site (Cameroon). This was done under the project’s Knowledge Management and Communication Strategy.

These two COAST Project countries, Kenya and Cameroon, were selected to benefit from this training after a rapid web audit that identified the two as best placed to benefit and demonstrate to the other project countries how web based applications could be used as a best practice in marketing tourism destinations. The ensuing results, experiences and lessons from this training will be documented and shared with all the COAST Project countries, and particular demonstrable results will be converted into a web raising toolkit that can easily be used by the partner country tourist destination areas that seek to benefit from online marketing presence to enhance their branding.

The COAST Project’s Web-raising Capacity Building Training for Kenya and Cameroon

This three day workshop was organized at the Turtle Bay Beach Club from 20th to 23rd March, 2013. The participants from Kenya ranged from private sector representatives, civil society organizations and government stakeholders. These stakeholders play a critical role in the work of the COAST Project at the local level. The Kribi Demo Site was represented by Mr. Santiago Ormeno, the UNIDO Technical Officer supporting COAST Project activities at the Demo Site in Cameroon. Mr. Ormeno will execute a number of follow up web-raising training activities at the Kribi Demo Site to enhance the online presence of eco-tourism in Kribi and build capacities of the local tourism sector in online marketing tools.

Figure : Participants to the web-raising training undertaking a field visit to the Dabaso boardwalk, a COAST Project supported activity in Watamu Demo Site (Photo: COAST Project)

What is web-raising and how does it apply to a tourism destination?

Prof. Simon Milne, Professor of Tourism and the Associate Head of School at the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute (NZTRI), contends that web-raising is touted as a “best practice in enhancing the work of communities in the tourism industry”. Prof. Milne has led numerous researches in this subject in New Zealand and the wider Pacific Islands. From his work, he demonstrates convincingly how Information Technology (IT) and access to the internet can significantly improve tourists’ experiences by exposing to them hitherto unknown authentic attraction sites in a given locality. In addition, through web-raising, it is possible for local communities and service providers to be more engaged in the tourism industry and therefore stand a chance to benefit from direct revenues that flow into these communities. To help the COAST Project execute this training workshop, Prof. Simon Milne was invited to provide his technical expertise to help the project review the web presence of the two sites and recommend strategies for building their web presence in ensuing months.

How does Web-raising apply to Marketing a Tourist Destination?

The concept of web-raising integrates Information Technology (IT) and access to the web to ensure improved branding and marketing of tourist destinations. The NZTRI view’s web-raising as a process that can enable communities and related stakeholders to use the internet to maximize the potential of tourism to be a tool for sustainable economic development. A key focus is on how to use the internet to enhance the economic linkages between tourism and the surrounding economy while also lessening negative impacts on community quality of life and the broader ecosystem. According to Prof. Milne, web-raising is not an end in itself, but rather a process that evolves over a number of stages and can be customized to meet different cultural, environmental and economic realities.

This concept has been successfully implemented in some parts of the globe, and particularly in New Zealand, Tonga and Eua Islands (Islands in South Pacific) to significantly improve both, the visitor experience as well local business and service provision opportunities for these local communities. Resulting from such web-raising examples, local businesses and local community have combined resources to provide deeper insights into the experiences that await the visitor. In the end, communities that had been previously poorly linked into the domestic and international tourism market, and have been perpetually ‘bypassed’ in terms of tourism spend and visitor engagement opportunities, find real niches to work and support touristic practices that also benefits them. It is also provides a good opportunity to integrate environmental sustainability principles within the tourism industry.

The COAST Project: Results from the Web-Audit for Watamu and Kribi Demo Site

It is important to realize that most tourists’ first point of call for information on any given tourist destination they plan to visit is through the internet. The search engines that are mostly used include Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask and AOL. For tourists, a number of traveler rating sites, with interactive feedback mechanisms that allow travelers to post their reviews are rising in popularity. They include TripAdvisor; Lonely Planet and Wiki pages. Hence, during this internet search, a tourist would wish to see a positive branding and more information on attraction sites to visit even before leaving their home countries. In a way, the tourists would wish to experience the real visit, even before setting off for the journey. In realization of this fact, a team of researchers from the NZTRI conducted a web audit of the Watamu and Kribi Demo Sites before the training. The audit comprised of a comprehensive review of all the key on-line resources that a prospective visitor would check for Kribi and Watamu Demo Sites.

So, the question is, what do tourists who want to visit Watamu and Kribi see on the internet, before setting off for their holidays? Below is a summary of the key findings:

Web Audit for Watamu Demo Site

  • On searching for the word ‘Kenya’ no search engine had the word Watamu popping up. However, various links showed other areas which are more popular tourist destination areas, including Diani in South Coast of Kenya.  Various other searches of the words ‘tourism Kenya’; ‘Kenya tourism’; ‘Kenya eco-tourism’ and such did not yield a result with Watamu on the 3 main pages. It is only after  searching ‘Kenya marine eco-tourism’ that Watamu showed up in the main search area through the website of the Watamu Marine Association (WMA), Magical Kenya site, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Ministry of Tourism Kenya, Eco Tourism Kenya and the Turtle Bay Hotel;
  • It is important to note that a few of the pages found offer much detailed information on Watamu, especially describing local communities, infrastructure, culture, and local economic development or conservation efforts. The information presented is mostly concerned with the aesthetic aspects and attractions of the destination;
  • On searching for ‘Watamu Kenya’, the following websites had a lot more information on the Demo Site TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, Wikipedia, Turtle Bay Hotel, Hemingways Watamu, and a host of other hotels in the area. This information was more detailed, and contained some specific attractions that would attract visitors to the area, but with little community and environmental linkages. Watamu hotels however received very good reviews from the visitors on the travel rating website, TripAdvisor (with a total of 5866 reviews);
  • Social media presence for Watamu was found to be impressive, with various Face book and Twitter pages dedicating themselves to marketing the Watamu area, including WMA, Hemingways, Watamu Association, Local Ocean Trust etc. On searching for ‘Watamu images’ on the search engines, very attractive beaches and enticing marine life activities are observed, but with local population, culture and authenticity components totally missing.

Web Audit for Kribi Demo Site

  • On searching for ‘Cameroon’ on the five main search engines, the word Kribi never popped up in the results. Even tourism links for Cameroon appeared on one of the search engines (Bing), but with no specific link to the national tourism board;
  • On searching for the words ‘Cameroon Tourism’; ‘Cameroon Eco-tourism’; and ‘Cameroon Marine Eco-tourism’ all results from the main search engines fail to mention the Kribi Demo Site. Even government websites, which show up in these searches fail to make specific reference to Kribi. Even on broadening the search to ‘Coastal Marine Tourism in Cameroon’, the results did not change;
  • On searching the word ‘Kribi”, the Google search engine directs the reader to three main Tourism Organizations on information pertaining to Kribi area, and they are; Ministry of Tourism Cameroon; Cameroon Association for Responsible Tourism (CAMAST); and (a tour operator website) but still, not much information on the Kribi Demo Site;
  • Only sites that have information on Kribi are Wikipedia with some YouTube video link. There is need to begin applying the web-raising concept by first influencing the key government websites to at least have a specific reference to the Kribi Demo Site;
  • Most of the news stories on Kribi from the web are about industrial development. The Kribi destination area is not available on TripAdvisor. Creation of this profile is the easiest way to get the site more visibility in successive web audits. Some of the hotels in Kribi are however well rated on TripAdvisor and they include Hotel Ilomba, Hotel Coasta Blanca, Les Gites de Kribi and Hotel du Phare among others.
  • On social media, one community page has been created on Kribi, but is mainly used as a promotional page for a local hotel. The pages are not updated regularly. The image search of Kribi Demo Site however presents a good balance of natural resources, local population, culture (food) and authenticity.


From this training, a number of key issues were agreed upon, with an action plan being adopted to support the efforts by the DMSC’s in Watamu to enhance the web presence of the COAST Project Demo Site. For Kribi, an action plan that involves further trainings has been developed to support the local stakeholders become familiar with the opportunities presented by the Internet for promotion of their tourism products, to build the loyalty of regular tourists and to conceive new destination marketing tools. By and large, it is important to note that if fully integrated within the tourism industry, web-raising can contribute to building new tourism brands in areas that are not necessarily known as tourism destinations, and promote a positive perception by potential tourists and investors. It can also enhance the search-ability and marketability of a tourist area that doesn’t fit the conventional definition, as many other destinations in Sub Saharan Africa, that remain off-the-beaten-paths of mainstream tourism.

Websites such as AirBnB (stays at local houses), Trip Advisor (information about tourism sites and hotels), and Google Places (geo-location of small business) serve as a new direct channels for community based tourism and eco-tourism. Web-raising therefore has the potential of ensuring that more tourism income is directly being infused within the local communities, hence accruing more direct benefits to a given society.  Since the subject of green consumerism and responsible tourism is on the rise in recent years, this concept can be effectively used to market destinations that pay particular emphasis on sustainability issues. Therefore, lessons and experiences that will emerge from the COAST Project’s application of the web-raising concept in Kenya and Cameroon will be shared to ensure broader uptake in the next course of project implementation.

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