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Kenya’s tourism sector ‘smiling’ again as State identifies new charisma

Photo Caption: CS Najib Balala enjoys the hike at Mt. Longmont over the weekend

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By Bernard Gitonga

Tourism and hospitality sector was one of the best performing sectors of the economy, according to a new economic survey 2022 which shows that an impressive 1.5 million tourists visited the country, up from one million a year before.

That growth represents a 50.3 percent increase in the number of international visitor arrivals in 2021, most of whom visited the country’s national parks and game reserves last year.

Similarly, the value of bed occupancy which is basically a measure of utilization of the available bed capacity in hotel rooms, and it indicates the percentage of beds occupied by tourists in a given period of time, usually 1 year, also grew to 5,517,000 last year from 3,803,000 in 2020.

The latest figures are a clear indication of a rebounding sector – which was one of the worst affected industries in the history of mankind when the pandemic visited the global economy.

Global airlines halted flying for several weeks – perhaps months, in what led to a huge nosedive and serious dip in revenue earnings in an industry synonymous with steady profitability before planes descended the skies for larger parts of 2020.

Over that period, Kenya’s tourism industry for instance, is estimated to have lost in excess of Sh85 billion – probably more in revenue due to the crisis.

But 2021 offered a different perspective, with the local tourism sector showing signs of quick recovery following the lifting of restrictions on inter-county travel and return to global travel schedules.

As a result, over the weekend the Government identified adventure, hiking, mountaineering experiences as key catalysts in the recovery of tourism businesses in Kenya.

Kenya is well placed to tap into these niche segments thanks to the diverse opportunities and attractions found across the destination. The foundation of Kenya being known as a leader in Safari also enhances the potential of the destination being regarded as top in adventure tourism.

Speaking after a hiking expedition at Mt. Longonot, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala encouraged Kenyans to embrace and take up hiking, mountaineering and other adventure experiences for fitness and wellness.

He also noted that adventure tourism is one of the fastest growing experiences in the world today with travellers looking for life-changing experiences that suit them.

“Mountaineering and hiking have the potential to improve our tourism numbers because today’s traveller is looking for immersive and engaging opportunities. We must be ready to demonstrate to both domestic and international visitors that we have more than Beach and Safari experiences.

People are today also conscious about their health and hiking is a good fitness and outdoor activity. I encourage Kenyans to visit some of the mountaineering and hiking destinations in the country.

They can be a pocket-friendly option for many people because they include day trips which are easily accessible,” said CS Balala

He added that the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife would be working towards improving the visitor experience and putting a spotlight on attractions like MT Longonot to ensure that visitors earmark them on their bucket list “We have earmarked the development and showcase of these experiences to propel the recovery of the sector.

We are working with the partners and experience owners in the industry to fully enhance and market these attractions in Kenya” added the CS

Dubbed “Sheer Adventure” destination, Mt. Longonot, rises from the floor of the Great Rift Valley.

The Mountain is located within the mount Longonot National Park which is one of the many fascinating, yet least visited, attractions of Kenya. With its cool climate, lush greenery, and stunning views of the Rift Valley, Mt Longonot offers a variety of trails for hikers of all fitness levels.

It is also home wildlife like zebra’s giraffe grant gazelles and over 110 bird species making it a birding paradise.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Director General John Waweru noted that MT longonot National Park is part of the rich ecosystem in Naivasha which includes Hells Gate, lake Naivasha and many facilities that are ready to host visitors in the area.

He assured visitors of a safe and enjoyable experience at the park which is also home to several campsites.

The hike at Mt Longonot was also part of the CS Balala’s preparation for an expedition at MT Kenya in mid- May 2022.

The expedition will aim at re-positioning Mt. Kenya as one of the key iconic adventure experience facilities in Africa as well as raise funds towards improving the visitor experience.

Among who will be accompanying the CS are Magical Kenya Destination Ambassador Eliud Kipchoge and sponsors who include Safaricom/ Mpesa, Visa, Huawei, KCB and EABL among others.

Other hiking and adventure destinations that travellers can explore in Kenya include the trails at Karura Forest, Menengai crater, Mt Elgon, Mt Ololokwe and Ngong hills among others. These destinations offer different experiences and therefore should be on the list of all visitors

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