This study examines the role of the media in construction of a destination image with the theoretical framework being applied to the experience of Kenya as a tourist destination. The objectives of the study are to empirically analyse the role of the media as a factor in destination image construction, to analyse the impact of media on visitation, and to propose a media communication framework that can be applied by the Kenya Tourism Board to influence construction of a positive destination image of Kenya in normal times, and to mitigate negative media representations in times of crisis. An in-depth literature review was conducted and a mixed method approach was used to collect data. The quantitative method was used to collect data from actual and potential visitors to Kenya through airport and web-based surveys. Through in-depth interviews with Kenya tourism stakeholders, the qualitative method explored: the current tourism situation in Kenya; views of the stakeholders on the influence of media reporting and representation on the destination image and visitation; and the media communications strategies followed by the Kenya tourism industry in promoting the image of Kenya. The resulting data from the surveys are mostly categorical in nature and were analysed using Chi square tests and T-tests. Analysis of the qualitative data was done by summarising the content of the interviews and categorising the statements, from which conclusions were drawn.
The findings revealed that the media has an influence on destination perception, however not all aspects of the destination image will be influenced and not all media information sources have the capacity to influence. Similarly the media will influence destination visitation but again not all media has the capacity to influence, and the potential and the actual visitors intent to visit will be influenced differently. Television news reports and television travel documentaries were identified as the most influential media in construction of the organic image of Kenya. Nevertheless, in regard to the construction of a destination image in general, although both potential and actual visitors will depend mostly on the Internet and travel guides, it is the media of television, travel guides and newspapers that were found most influential. Of the three, the media of television proved to be prominent. From the perspective of the Kenyan stakeholders the Internet and social media are the most used sources for providing information on Kenya. The results show that although the media is influential in construction of a destination image and also on visitation intent, it is not as highly influential as theorised or expected. Other aspects that influence destination image and visitation come into play. A media communication framework for destination image is constructed based on the empirical results of the study.