Hoteliers raise Safari Rally earnings outlook ahead of new season

Nation FM presenter Anto Neosoul (Anthony Mwangi) and a young Karting driver Zahran Mogul during Nation Media Group Motor Expo held at Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi on June 3, 2022. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

Kenyan hoteliers see the latest edition of the world-famous Safari Rally to be held later this month in Naivasha injecting more than the Sh8 billion recorded last year, buoyed by end of Covid-19 containment measures that saw the event restrict entry.

The hosting of the Safari Rally pumped more than Sh8 billion into the economy with workers and hospitality establishments in Naivasha taking the lion’s share of the perks, a recent government report showed.

Last year’s event marked its return to Kenya after a 19-year hiatus. This year’s event will be the sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

It will be held between June 23 and 26.

Analysts say Kenya is expected to rake in more from the annual event, surpassing last year’s earnings since there are no Covid -19 restrictions. The lack of the virus curbs is expected to attract more fans and visitors.

Last year’s show attracted more than 45,000 local and foreign visitors mainly from America, Europe, Asia and the rest of Africa.

A spot check on Friday by Business Daily revealed the majority of hotels in Naivasha and surrounding were already fully booked in the run-up to the event.

“We are receiving many enquiries for camping and other fun activities by visitors and rally enthusiasts from all over the world,” Alex Mugo, the director of Karmel Resort, a popular garden resort located along the Naivasha-Kinangop road, told Business Daily.

The event had last year been tipped to inject a minimum of Sh6 billion into the Kenyan economy, according to Phineas Kimathi, the chief executive of the WRC Safari Rally, meaning it did better than expected.

Data from the State-backed Tourism Research Institute (TRI) shows the Naivasha event created 24,758 full-time equivalent jobs. These jobs generated Sh3.757 billion as labour income.

“Overall impacts analysis indicated that total tourism internal demand expenditure (total expenditure around the rally) of Sh8.258 billion in June- July 2021 period supported 24,758 full-time equivalent jobs and generated Sh3.757 billion as labour income, nearly Sh9.610 billion in value addition to the economy and Sh15.780 billion as output (new businesses generated),” says the report.

“Same day and overnight visitors from outside the country spent an equivalent of Sh1.35 billion due to the motor rally event.”

The Safari Rally has for decades been a much-loved, adventurous part of Kenya’s history, as Kenyans watch local and foreign drivers fight it out in an epic and gruelling battle on long, dusty, rocky roads in picturesque scenery with wildlife freely roaming.

It’s the only African round in the WRC calendar and one of a few global motor racing events that have historically taken place on the continent.

Already a host of top rally stars from around the world have confirmed participation.

They include Frenchman Sébastien Loeb, the nine-time world WRC champion who will be making his return to the rally since 2002.

Loeb’s announcement comes days after his fellow compatriot and eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier also revealed an entry for the Safari Rally encounter.

Visitors are expected to spend on accommodation, food and drinks, transport, reservation services (for instance, tour agencies and operations) and attractions (mainly, nature and culture-based).

The survey by TRI says most of the visitors to last year’s event (99.6 percent) stayed for less than 10 days while 0.05 percent spent between 10-20 days.

In terms of age distribution, the survey says most of the visitors were between 24 –34 (51.8 percent) while the least were visitors aged 65 and above (0.1 percent).

Respondents said they were disappointed there were not enough spectator zones and adequate toilet facilities. They also complained of long wait in traffic and closed roads.

There was no TV live stream available to Kenyans coupled with poor mobile phone network, they said, also faulting access to food and water.

The study says male visitors spent more compared to females where the average expenditure range for the latter was Sh31,000 while males had average spending between Sh51,000, to Sh61,000.

The data shows visitors who stayed for more than one day spent more than visitors who stayed less than a day.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.