Kenya is recording high tourism numbers with hotels in the Maasai Mara National Reserve enjoying full bookings ahead of the June to October wildebeest migration season.
The period is the most popular time to visit the reserve hence thousands of international tourists turn up to witness some two million wild animals migrate from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the greener pastures of the Maasai Mara.
Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said other tourist sites look promising and assured visitors of safety.
“So far, future bookings for this year are promising, June is already fully booked for Masai Mara and other destinations are quite encouraging. It is unfortunate what happened at Riverside Drive but Kenyans are stronger and resilient,” Mr Balala said in a video shared on his Twitter account.
Mr Balala said Kenya targets more than 2.5 million tourist arrivals per year by 2022 up from two million today. “Our Tourism industry is gaining strength and we see a bright future for 2019.
“We pray for victims of the terrorist attack, condolences to their families and friends, and a great job by our security agencies. We will overcome cowardly acts, Kenya is safe,” Mr Balala said.
The Tourism ministry has embarked on a vigorous social media drive to market Kenya as a prime destination.
On January 30, Coast tourism stakeholders led by Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa Managing Director Bobby Kamani are expected to discuss the future of the sector in the wake of the terrorist attack that left 21 dead.
“The topic will be DusitD2 attack, they will address pertinent issues including the future of tourism. The meeting will be ahead of the regional tourism conference hosted by the CS and his new taskforce,” said Diani Reef Public Relations Consultant Alex Owiti.
Industry players are preparing to reap big from the wildebeest migration with security enhanced in the area.
According to Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers chief executive Mike Macharia, the migration season is the busiest in the sector with international tourists from the UK, the US, Germany and Scandinavia thronging to the Mara for the spectacle.
Mr Macharia said local tourists have also embraced the product, which he termed as a special event that happens once in a lifetime.
“It is a normal busy period for our sector and we are ready for a full house. We are happy that locals are now embracing the Mara to experience the migration due to the awareness of this tourism product. The allure of wildlife tourism is phenomenol,” Mr Macharia said.
Saiwa Holidays director Paul Kurgat said the sector was upbeat and urged hoteliers to improve services to attract more attention.
“I have repeat clients, we are happy that the sector is looking up,” he said. Sally Mathenge from Rizo Tours and Travel, who last week took visitors to the Mara, was surprised to find hotels fully booked.
“What Mr Balala said is true, the place is fully booked. I took six visitors to the park and I was surprised, it is rare to find all hotels fully booked at this time. It is awesome, my visitors will come back next year,” Ms Mathenge, the South Coast Association of Local Tour Operators chair said.
On the other hand, the Tourism ministry has assured curio dealers, Swahili cuisine makers and other traders along Mama Ngina Drive that they will be given the first priority when stalls ready for occupation in May.
The government has invested in the project to attract more visitors to the Coast.
The traders were worried that the stalls would be given to outsiders. However, Mr Balala assured them that they will be given the first priority. President Uhuru Kenyatta officially launched the Sh460 million Mama Ngina Waterfront Project on January 7.