As the annual wildebeest migration, dubbed the eighth wonder of the modern world, continues into September, tourists from all corners of the world are trooping to Masai Mara National Reserve to witness this lifetime natural spectacle.
A look at the estimated 300,000 visitors who jet into the country annually to witness the wonder at the Masai Mara shows less of Kenyans and more foreigners.
This begs one question: how do we increase the number of local tourists enjoying the annual event? In July, the Ministry of Tourism noted most hotels in the Masai Mara had record bookings in anticipation of the migration.
The bookings were confirmation of a recovering industry. The hospitality sector recorded an impressive performance in the first half of the year, with foreign visitors surpassing the 430,000 mark, compared to the 222,765 visitors in a similar period in 2021.
Despite the excitement that the migration ignites among travel enthusiasts, many locals do not get an opportunity to experience it as most marketing activities only focus on international tourists.
This is regardless of the fact that the local market has played a critical role in the recovery of the tourism industry in the post-pandemic period.
Between June and July 2022, Central Bank of Kenya data noted that domestic clients took up 60 per cent and 70 per cent of accommodation and restaurant services, respectively, between June and July 2022. This is compared to 56 per cent and 67 per cent prior to the pandemic.
Earlier this year, the tourism ministry revealed that the sector posted a 65 per cent increase in earnings for the 2021 financial year to hit Sh146.51 billion, up from Sh88.56 billion, thanks to the domestic market that took over hotels, parks and coastal beaches when foreigners stayed away.
The sector must, therefore, undertake activities encouraging Kenyan travellers to see the wildebeest migration alongside their international counterparts.
But how do we do this?
The government and private players in tourism and hospitality must collaborate to make the event appealing to local tourists.
This can be done by undertaking sensitisation programmes under KTB and Tembea Kenya (I thank you the sector for similar initiative after Covid_19) that encourage local tourists to go to the Masai Mara and witness the migration.
This could help local tourists appreciate the safari experience, which is largely foreshadowed due to adoration of the beach holiday experience.
The government could also give incentives to private players in the hospitality and the wider tourism sector to help them offer affordable rates to domestic tourists to enjoy the annual event.
This would be done by lowering taxes on agents and hotels that focus on selling travel packages to local tourists.
At the same time, corporates undertaking promotional campaigns during the migration months could also consider offering trips to the Masai Mara for their winners to witness the movement.
Private hospitality sector players could also use the migration as a marketing opportunity that they could use to reach more tourists. They would need to address the cost of experiencing the annual event as price has been a major hindrance to the uptake of safaris among local tourists.
To do this, players in the industry would need to innovate suitable travel packages while still delivering value to ensure more local tourists can experience the wildebeest migration.
At PrideInn Mara Camp, we have introduced a new package that will cater to Kenyans interested in watching the great wildebeest migration. We offer all-inclusive packages catering to those who go to the Masai Mara by road or flight.
A couple going by road would pay $825 and get two nights’ full board accommodation, return transport, game drives in a tour van and park entrance fees.
Those who opt to fly down to Masai Mara would pay $1325 per couple. Here, the couple gets two nights’ full board accommodation, a return flight to Nairobi. They also get a game drive in a land cruiser, park entrance fees and transfers in Nairobi and the Masai Mara.
At PrideInn Hotels, Resorts and Camps, we believe that it is impossible for Kenya to realise the potential of the wildebeest migration if we do not bring the domestic market on board.