LETTER: Mara has more to offer than the migration

Tourists at a game reserve. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Tourists at a game reserve. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

For decades, The Maasai Mara Game Reserve has been synonymous with the Great Migration, the very asset that has consistently underpinned the success of the reserve so far.

For far too long as a country, the migration has been the major selling product we associate with the Maasai Mara.

For years, this has given the reserve a unique competitive advantage resulting in numerous awards, exponential increase in global international tourists numbers and boost in its global appeal and reputation.

To remain at the pinnacle, we cannot afford to operate with a false sense of security by assuming visitors have complete product knowledge of what the Mara has to offer.

Tourism is a highly changeable and dynamic industry. What seemed appealing a decade ago is no longer the cup of tea to today’s sophisticated traveller who seeks more than just the Safari.

The need to revise the marketing strategy is premised on the hope that tourists who come for Safari will equally be driven to discover the rest of what the Maasai Mara has to offer.

Not all tourists count the Safari as the only reason to travel to the Mara. Today’s travellers are more specific about their needs and demands as pertains to a destination and the Mara is in that race to gain their loyalty.

As a county government, we have recognised the need to diversify the traditional attributes that are associated with the reserve.

First off, cultural tourism plays an integral role in the whole visitor experience in the Mara, and this has not been fully exploited. There’s something about the Maasai culture that provides visitors with a special added value that is unmatched anywhere else.

One can only be able to appreciate and have a better comprehension of this culture by interacting with the community.

The Maasai villages offer visitors a memorable experience, the chance to interact with the local community and learn their way of life is undoubtedly a marketing gem.

Joining the Maasai in their traditional attire as they welcome you to the lodges is breathtaking; so much so, it’s hard to put this into words, the experience certainly is unforgettable.

The Mara is home to some stunning scenic beauty one can ever experience. The vast grasslands make for stunning views. It’s not lost that the much revered “Out of Africa” movie was shot at the Oloololo Escapment. The TV show ‘‘Game of Thrones’’ has increased demand and tourist numbers in the Northern Ireland due to the country hosting prominent locations for most of its production.

A replication of this film tourism strategy in the Mara will provide a wide range of jobs and opportunities for the local communities as well as attract more people to the Mara. Where movie stars go, the people will follow.

The potential for conference tourism in the Mara is enormous. Conference tourism in Kenya has been domiciled in our major cities and urban centres such as Nairobi, Mombasa and Naivasha.

In order to diversify the parks revenue streams, the Maasai Mara seeks a slice of this conference tourism pie.

As a county government, we are keenly aware that one of the key ingredients that business travellers look for when selecting a conference location is the facilities combined with ideal surroundings, accommodation and quality of services, all of which are available at the Mara.

One would ask why business people would consider the Mara; in my opinion, the privacy and quiet exclusion offered at the Mara from the rest of the world provides an ideal environment for conference participants to hold productive meetings with little or no distractions.

There are destinations in the world that business people and leaders associate as places where they can feel alive or become inspired to seek out and pursue the passions in their lives, this is what Maasai Mara can offer, it makes perfect sense.

Few tourism sites in the country have been better positioned to witness exponential growth than the Maasai Mara; this however requires a continuous process of innovation in how we market the Maasai Mara. There’s something for everyone at the Mara this holiday season.

Oliver Mwenda, director of communications, County Government of Narok.