Getting Kenyans to tour their country
Tourism expos are aimed at enticing Kenyans to travel within, writes JECKONIA OTIENO
Domestic tourism is being encouraged as more effort is put into making it more appealing to the locals. Recently, the Tourism Expo and Racing Festival was held at the Ngong Racecourse and Golf Park in Nairobi to show the diversity within the country.
After a long lull in the local sector, more is being done to ensure that Kenyans keep the tourism sector vibrant even during low seasons when foreign tourists do not visit the country in large numbers.
Many players in the industry have observed that most Kenyans do not realise the numerous attractions that lie all over the country. When they think of holidaying, Mombasa is the first place that comes to their minds.
The event held at the Ngong Racecourse involved a number of activities like horse-racing, camel derby, exhibitions by various tourist destinations and tour companies, and a beauty pageant.
Tourism Assistant Minister Cecily Mbarire, who graced the occasion, lauded the effort, saying overdependence on international tourists is not sustainable hence the need to urge locals to tour their country and contribute to the sector.
Save over time
Said Mbarire: "Kenyans should keep the industry on a high even when the tourists are not here because they are here all year round, something which the foreign tourists do not enjoy."
She also encouraged Kenyans to get to know their country well and save for holidays to make the dream of touring Kenya a reality. Mbarire added that most foreign tourists start saving long before they embark on any holiday.
"Holidaying is not a decision you make overnight, but a plan conceived over a period of time, so why not start saving for it early?" asked the assistant minister while urging banks to start offering tourism packages for those interested in touring the country.
She also urged Kenyans to make any time, and not necessarily December, travel time. This could be done through weekend getaways and group trips because these are cheaper compared to travelling solo.
Apart from the Coast and other famous tourist destinations, Kenyans were also urged to discover other areas such as the Western Circuit that comprises Western and Nyanza regions.
Different kinds of tourism have been identified including golf tourism, sport tourism (which seeks to market Kenya’s athletes), conference tourism, cultural tourism, eco-tourism, voluntourism and the newest kid on the block, medical tourism.
Kenya Tourism Board Director Muriithi Ndegwa concurred that domestic tourism should be given a boost. He observed that for a long time, tourism had been associated with going to the beach and visiting wildlife parks. He pointed out that tourism was more than this.
"We have chosen to partner with the Jockey Club to show people that tourism is more than just wildlife because there are other cultural activities like horse and camel racing," said Ndegwa.
Some industry players believe that more expos are necessary to make locals more engaged in domestic tourism.
Mansoor Madatali of Leisure Travel and Guides East Africa recommended more of such fares to popularise and showcase the unknown tourist destinations.
He proposed that more such activities should be held in the country to make the different tourism circuits known to Kenyans.
"We appreciate that this event was brought here because there is a lot of space and more players can exhibit their products," said Madatali.
Medical tourism, that is slowly attracting attention, involves person visiting a place for medical care. The hosting tour company takes care of accommodation and movement from one place to the other.
Voluntourism is the other new form that involves tourists volunteering to help the less privileged in society. This is common in slums and remote areas.
Ndegwa said more tourism expos would be held to ensure that domestic tourism gained ground in the country.
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