DOMESTIC TOURISM MARKET IN KENYA

July of this year marked my one year anniversary since i started marketing my domestic tourism business.

A lot of it has been trial and error since i didn’t have much of a grasp of the industry except what I had read and seen from the media.

So excited was I ,having grown up with a dad  who had been to almost every game reserve,resort,national park you name it as a film producer,he would bring back home photos of wildlife and I can still remember I kept a brochure of the Ark under my bed vowing i would go there some day..

Now years later,the brochure is lost,I haven’t been to the Ark but i want more Kenyans to visit this beautiful country we call home.

If you haven’t ever heard of this song,you need to listen to it, because it makes you feel like rushing to a tour operators and booking a holiday to Malindi,Lamu,Maasai Mara anywhere in this beautiful country.Seeing ever nook and cranny of my country is certainly on my bucket list and i wish it is on every one’s list too.

That said you have to wonder why the government does not spend as much money marketing our beautiful country to its own residents.Kenya has a growing middle class with money to spend and we are sitting on millions in terms of revenue if we could tap into this niche market.

There was a domestic tourism board that had been set up under the Ministry of Tourism but you never hear anything from them.

A lot of us Kenyans are guilty of never having travelled to see our country as it is ,most of us have seen Malindi town from the comfort of our couches in our living rooms when some news item from them catches the eye of a news editor.

Yet Malindi is an hour away by flight.

There are so many great places to visit in this country some just a drive away it is possible for one to spend their whole lives discovering the gems that lie just in our backyards.

From the little church built by Italian prisoner of war along the Mai Mahiu road,to the castle that was built for love by Lord Egerton in Ngata ,Nakuru,to the house where Jomo Kenyatta was put under house arrest in Kapenguria,the places to visit are inexhaustible.

Not to mention the archaeological sites scattered all along the Rift Valley…we have so much to celebrate.

It s time we started selling the concept of family holidays,safaris to Kenyans,it should not just be a preserve of foreigners that they should enjoy what this country has to offer.

We should celebrate our diversities and this will only be possible if we are able to venture outside our “gates”.

Hopefully the yet to be formed county governments will take into consideration the domestic tourism as a niche market to expand their revenue base.

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NAKURU:Reaching for the Stars

I have watched Nakuru town grow from the dusty little town it was seven years ago,where shops closed by 7.30 pm to the bustling town it is right now,labelled among the fastest growing town in Africa.Then people hardly ever came to Nakuru except if it was to watch the Nakuru sevens tournaments or visit the Lake national Park.Nakuru to me is home,having fallen in love with this little town more than a decade ago it has become like a little sibling that i have watched grow from infancy and it is bursting with potential.

As things stand right now everyone wants a slice of this little town that sits smack in the middle of the Rift Valley tourism circuit.Banks have already made their presence felt and Kenyatta Avenue the main street is literally overflowing with these financial institutions.High rise buildings are present whichever way we look with their gleaming glassy fronts and security guards in their spanking brand new uniforms can be seen at nearly all entrances to these new edifices making up part of the emerging Nakuru skyline.

It also seems that Kenyan corporates and the non governmental organisations have also got tired of holding workshops and conferences in the capital city and are now trooping to Nakuru where the towns hotel’s are working overtime to accommodate the sudden influx of conference attendants trooping to the town.A report of the sudden increase in conference tourism can be read here.

With all these happening in the town we need to ask ourselves how the local leaders and Nakuru residents are readying themselves for what is easily going to be one of the busiest counties in the country.Too often we have heard of the rising cases of insecurity with everything from muggings,to hijackings to murders taking place.For Nakuru to cash in on the goodwill it is receiving from investors,the local administration and security network needs to spruce up the image of the town and beef up security.

For investors security is like breathing air,businesses  only flourish in safe havens.It does no good for businesses to be worrying about getting robbed or the increasing cost of ensuring their investments are secure when they are doing business.It is hoped the security apparatus in the county are watching things keenly and putting measures in place to ensure security is beefed up.

The hotel industry in the town also needs to spruce up their establishments for the growing number of local and foreign tourists who are coming to savour what the town has to offer.We also have to see the towns officials also have to come up with incentives that will attract more investors interested in the growing populace who call Nkauru home and investors who are finding what the town has to offer very attractive.Only in this way will Nakuru reap from all the goodwill it is generating from the people who have seen its potential for growth and have invested in it.

I  wish I had  the job of marketing this now bustling metropolis ,the peole charged with this are not yet doing enough for this little gem of the Rift Valley.We seem to have forgotten  our administrative units are now counties and we need to market them as much as we can so that we see the benefits of the much touted devolution.

SAVING THE MAASAI MARA

Every year  the great migration in the Maasai Mara leads almost two million animals to cross the swelling Mara river in search of food and water.The majority of these are gnus but we also have zebras,impalas,gazelles,elephants and giraffes.You can read more about this seventh wonder of the world here,here and here.

Scientists and environmentalists have reported on a  weed threatening the the Mara ecosystem,the plant known has already gained notoriety in Australia,India and Ethiopia as it inhibits growth of other plants.With an ecosystem already facing human encroachment,pollution and disease action needs to be taken fast to weed it out before what is arguable Kenya’s biggest wildlife sanctuary becomes obsolete.The full report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature can be read here.

The UK guardian carried an article on the weed as early as March of this year and by then they were already efforts by the Kenya Wildlife Service which is the government body charged with the management of game reserves and national parks and CABI(Center for Agricultural Bioscience International) to control the weed.The news only hit local media channels this year when KTN carried a report on the weed in its prime time news this past week.

Seeing that devolved government stars functioning after we hold our election on the 14th of August next year,Narok county needs to look for ways in which the local community and all stake holders not just donors can weed the plant out.Whether it is by involving the local communities in physically pulling it out as suggested by some scientists let everything be done to ensure that the weed does not encroach on animals grazing ground.It is said to spread very fast and it is my hope the government is aware of this and doing all it can by providing support to the people of Narok to care for this park that plays  host to  the seventh wonder of the world every June.

BRITISH ROYAL FAMILY AND THEIR LOVE AFFAIR WITH KENYA


Kenya needs to claim bragging rights for playing a very central role in the British Royal family.

In 1952 when Queen Elizabeth then a young bride was on honeymoon she was hurriedly called home to ascend to the throne after the death of her father King George VI.She was then staying at the Tree tops hotel in Nyeri and since then this elevated the status of the hotel and it has been a major attraction site for tourists visiting Mount Kenya.

One generation later,her grandson Prince William announces his engagement today to Catherine Elizabeth Middleton whom he met at University.Beauty of this is that they got engaged while on a private holiday to Kenya.The wedding is set for next year probably around June or July.

It is safe to assume the charming prince popped the question somewhere in our beautiful country and if i was working for the ministry of Tourism,I would go to Lewa Conservancy where the couple were staying and use it for the next tourism campaign.

NB:Image from gossip.whyfame.com

DOMESTIC TOURISM-Way Forward…


Just yesterday i was listening to prime time news and heard Honorable Najib Balala(Minister for Tourism) saying that by the end of the year the country would hit 100 billion mark from revenue generated from tourism.The same news item was commenting on the reduced tourist traffic at the coast due to the deplorable conditions of some hotels and also the effect that the frequent pirate attacks has had on tourist numbers.

Being an event planner i must say that there is a lot more to celebrate if our local hotel industry was targeting the domestic market.A few days ago i phoned a certain hotel in Nakuru wanting to book a room for a couple on their honeymoon.Getting them to give a discount seeing that my clients are either couples or corporates or even friends out to enjoy our scenic country is like pulling teeth out with pliers.Even after i asked if they could give the couple a bottle of wine seeing that they will be spending a night at their lodge,the best they could offer was a glass of wine!

After going through this ordeal with them,it is no wonder we arent meeting the full potential that the domestic tourism sector has to offer.It is about time Kenyan hotels woke up to the fact that Kenyans have come of age.We have an increasing middle class with enough disposable income and they are looking for places that are offering great experiences and they are ready to pay for it.So for those lodges and hotels that have been focusing on the foreign tourists let them offer great packages for the Kenyan citizen and you will have people flocking to your establishments in droves.

Another thing , in Kenya we have wedding seasons,most nuptials are held during school holidays with the climax is in December and you find in some churches weddings are back to back and woe unto you if you get late for yours…the presiding pastor will just call in the next couple who may just be waiting in the wings.Hotels should start offering packages for couples who want to spend their honeymoon in the country.Most Kenyan couples are going to Seychelles,Zanzibar,Egypt yet we can beat some of these destinations hands down with the variety of scenery and wildlife that we have on offer.Throwing in some freebies like a bottle of chilled champagne,fruit basket would go a long way because the happy couple will be singing your praises to all their friends till the cows come home.You have generated free PR with just a little bit of effort and some cash with this approach.

Finally let all establishments offer world class service,ambiance and accommodation.Reading through peoples experiences on tripadvisor.com it is a pity that some hotels that claim to be 4 star or 5 star are quickly downgraded by the experiences clients have there.I sure hope players in the industry regularly visit these sites to gauge customer experiences because we need all the goodwill we can generate from the tourists we host every year.