Key players in the hospitality industry have embarked on a new initiative to open up western Kenya to tourism opportunities.
The first step in marketing the region's tourist attractions was taken yesterday when more than 40 tourism promoters, travel agencies and other players in the sector embarked on a tour of the region.
The initiative, known as ‘WE’stern Kenya,’ has also won the backing of community organisations hoping to leverage on an increase in tourism numbers in the region, which comprises Nyanza, Western and parts of the South Rift.
Although driven by the private sector, the initiative also enjoys backing from county governments, including the the Lake Region Economic Bloc, whose 14 governors are keen on opening up the region for tourism. The bloc's CEO,Abala Wanga, said the leisure segment has been dormant and needs to be revived.
"The western tourism circuit has great potential that is yet to be tapped," said Mr Wanga at Dunga beach alongside 14 hoteliers in Kisumu.
Western Kenya is well served by a network of new roads and and four airlines, making it easily accessible for tourists. Plans are under way to open the Kisumu International Airport to more regional airlines.
Over 15 hoteliers Tuesday said they plan to sell the western Kenya to more local and foreign visitors as part of an income diversification strategy from conference tourism which has been the mainstay of hotels in the region.
A five-day familiarisation tour of the region started in Nairobi Tuesday.
The initiative’s interim chairman, Ouma Oluoko, said western Kenya has a diversification of tourist attractions that remain untapped, but if exploited could give the dorminant Coastal tourism circuit a run for its money.
From the rich birdlife in Ruma National Park, the only place in Kenya where visitors also get to see the Roan antelope, the rare Oribi antelope and the Jackson’s Hertebeest to the boat rides, the region has a lot more to offer than the scenic sunsets on the shores of Lake Victoria.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Ojina.