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Mara hotels bank on wildebeest event to turn fortunes around

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Wildebeest. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • Hoteliers at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve have expressed optimism that the industry will bounce back following high bookings ahead of the wildebeest migration expected to start this week.
  • The hotel managers are gaining confidence as a sizable number of international tourists have booked the lodges ahead of the migration of the wildebeest from Serengeti in Tanzania to the Mara in Kenya.
  • Keekorok Lodge manager James ole Pere said several hotels have received bookings from international tourists and they are expecting “a magic number of 50 percent” bed occupancy by mid this month.

Hoteliers at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve have expressed optimism that the industry will bounce back following high bookings ahead of the wildebeest migration expected to start this week.

The hotel managers are gaining confidence as a sizable number of international tourists have booked the lodges ahead of the migration of the wildebeest from Serengeti in Tanzania to the Mara in Kenya.

Keekorok Lodge manager James ole Pere said several hotels have received bookings from international tourists and they are expecting “a magic number of 50 percent” bed occupancy by mid this month.

Mr Pere said some of the tour companies that have not been in operation for over one year like Pollmans, Somak and Rhino Safaris are back in business and are already taking their clients to Mara.

The firms handle organised tourists who come in big numbers using fleet of vehicles for long tour circuits in Kenya and across East Africa

Mr Pere said for the last one month, the Mara has received “unlikely customers” who don’t fall under the traditional markets including from countries in the Eastern Europe such as Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Iran.

“We are also receiving bookings from the traditional markets in Europe, America, France but we are yet to receive any from the Chinese and Far East markets,” he added

Speaking to Business Daily in Narok, Mr Pere said by Mid-June scheduled flights, like Safari link and Air Kenya, which operate in the Mara have started to increase frequencies to twice a day.

Mr Pere said international photographers are already streaming into Mara in preparation for the epic wildebeest migration.

High-end camps and lodges such as Elewana, Salas camp, Angama and Entumototo are already witnessing increased bed occupancy compared to the middle level camps.

A spot-check by Business Daily indicates the Maimahiu-Narok-Maasai Mara highway is increasingly becoming busy with the number of Land cruisers, which make stopovers in Narok town.

Hoteliers say the Covid-19 vaccine has given international tourists confidence to visit Kenya.

“Some tourists from European countries who have observed the Covid-19 requirements to Kenya have done bookings to come and watch the migration after many of them missed out last year,” said Joseph Kararei of Entumoto luxury camp.

Some of the Ministry of Health requirements are that from midnight 24 May 2021, all passengers/crew arriving from the UK must have a valid certificate for a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken no more than 96 hours before arrival in Kenya except children below five years of age.