As the annual wildebeest migration, dubbed the eighth modern wonder of the world, continues into September, tourists from all corners of the world flock to the Masai Mara National Reserve to witness this lifelong natural spectacle.
One look at the estimated 300,000 visitors who jet into the country each year to witness the wonder of the Masai Mara reveals fewer Kenyans and more foreigners.
This raises a question: how do we increase the number of local tourists enjoying the annual event? In July, the Ministry of Tourism found that most hotels in the Masai Mara were seeing record bookings in anticipation of the migration.
The bookings were confirmation of a recovering industry. The hospitality sector posted an impressive performance in the first half of the year, with foreign visitors topping the 430,000 mark, compared to 222,765 visitors over a similar period in 2021.
Despite the excitement the migration is creating among travel enthusiasts, many locals don’t get a chance to experience it as most marketing efforts focus only on international tourists.
This is despite the fact that the local market has played a crucial role in the tourism industry’s recovery in the post-pandemic era.
Between June and July 2022, Central Bank of Kenya data found that domestic customers consumed 60 percent and 70 percent of accommodation and restaurant services between June and July 2022, respectively. This is compared to 56 percent and 67 percent before the pandemic.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Tourism announced that the sector reported a 65 percent increase in profit for fiscal 2021 to Sh146.51 billion, up from Sh88.56 billion, thanks to the domestic market taking over hotels, parks and coastal beaches, when foreigners stay away.
The sector therefore needs to take action to encourage Kenyan travelers to observe the wildebeest migration alongside their international counterparts.
But how do we do that?
Government and private tourism and hospitality stakeholders need to work together to attract local tourists to the event.
This can be done by running awareness programs within KTB and Tembea Kenya (I thank the sector for a similar post Covid_19 initiative) encouraging local tourists to go to the Masai Mara and witness the migration.
This could help local tourists appreciate the safari experience, which is largely anticipated due to the adoration of the beach holiday experience.
The government could also incentivize private players in the hospitality and broader tourism sector to help them offer affordable prices to local tourists so they can enjoy the annual event.
This would be achieved by cutting taxes on travel agencies and hotels that focus on selling travel packages to local tourists.
At the same time, companies running promotional campaigns during the migration months might also consider offering their winners trips to the Masai Mara to witness the movement.
Private hospitality actors could also use migration as a marketing opportunity to reach more tourists. You would have to consider the cost of attending the annual event as price is a major barrier to safari acceptance among local tourists.
To do this, industry players would need to develop appropriate travel packages while providing added value to ensure more local tourists can experience the wildebeest migration.
At PrideInn Mara Camp we have introduced a new package aimed at Kenyans interested in watching the wildebeest migration. We offer all inclusive packages for those traveling to the Masai Mara by car or plane.
A couple driving pays $825 and gets two nights’ accommodations, full board, round-trip transportation, game drives in a tour van, and park entrance fees.
Those who choose to fly to the Masai Mara would pay $1325 per couple. Here the couple gets two nights full board accommodation and a return flight to Nairobi. You also get a game drive in a Landcruiser, park entrance fees, and transfers in Nairobi and the Masai Mara.
At PrideInn Hotels, Resorts and Camps we believe it is impossible for Kenya to realize the potential of the wildebeest migration unless we get the domestic market on board.