A year has ended and another one just began. The past year presented challenges in the travel industry, but there were opportunities too. While it is safer to say that the world has shrugged off the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is also safe to say that the aftermath of the pandemic will be a key determinant in the travel habits of many people.
From the mode of travel to the choice of accommodation to who one chooses to travel with, the world will likely follow the patterns of the last two years, albeit with some measure of freedom. “Travel in 2023 will be about saying “no” to normal, breaking routines, and searching for experiences without compromises,” states hotel and travel booking site Expedia.
What then are the likely trends that will shape local travel in 2023?
Local destinations on the rise
One of the things we learnt from the pandemic was that an exotic destination is not a prerequisite for one to have a good time. Kenya is replete with globally-acclaimed tourism hotspots yearning to be discovered. The country is more than the much-touted ‘beach and the bush’.
The Kenya Tourism Board Signature Experiences was a drive born out of promoting local destinations and unique experiences instead rather than look externally for a holiday.
Domestic tourism saves the day
Travel industry players say they have been pushing for more impetus to be given to the domestic market since 2008 with a lukewarm response from stakeholders. However, the advent of Covid-19 meant that the so-called traditional markets could no longer sustain the industry.
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kenyans have been patronising most tourism hotspots in the country, giving a lifeline to establishments that would otherwise have closed down. “Covid was the final push that the segment needed and it has now acquired a life of its own,” says Mike Macharia who heads the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers.
Planning for travel
Gone are the days when a holiday was kept in the backburners as many families now save in advance for a getaway treat. Airlines, on the other hand, have been posting cheaper fares for persons booking in advance. For example, the national carrier, Kenya Airways’ website regularly lays out special offers to some local destinations such as Mombasa or Kisumu though such offers may not necessarily be for a period that one would prefer to travel.
However, travelling off-peak means you also enjoy cheaper (not inferior) services at the destination. TRavelling in mid-January will cost you less than travelling in the December peak period. This is a good idea considering that this year, the schools will be opening towards the end of January thus affording one a few days to spoil oneself before the young ones head back to school.
Every day, popular social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook have been posting local destinations for a digital-savvy population. Individuals are also posting experiential from their holidays.
Such short videos rake in considerable viewership that in turn moves some to consider visits to these locations. For example, stylish homes serving as Airbnbs in places such as Kajiado, Kilifi and Kwale have become popular fodder online.
Open skies lead to more visitors
Kenya is poised to receive more international visitors as the government, albeit cautiously, opens up the skies for flights to specific tourism hotspots. As the global travel markets recover following the Covid-19 slump, the move by Kenya Airways to start direct flights between Mombasa and Dubai will be one of the main steps that will shape arrivals in 2023. Such moves will steal some thunder from other regional markets such as Zanzibar that have been nibbling on Kenya’s lunch.
How does it feel to spend a couple of nights in a Rendille or Samburu manyatta? Or milking with Maasais on Kajiado? Well, today’s visitors are not just content with the fleeting wildlife and beach experiences. Learning a thing or two about local culture now tops the list of many a guest.
The culturally rich northern Kenya has created some irresistible allure, from the curio-weaving women groups to the “butterfly people” or Samburu morans and their resplendent costumes. The improvement of security in many areas of the once-no-go zone has seen several tour operators ride on the rich culture to promote the region.
Infrastructure upgrade spurs more travel Kenya has lately witnessed infrastructure upgrade that will make local destinations accessible. Since the SGR became a game-changer in local travel four years ago, there are other projects in the pipeline or nearing completion.
These include the proposed expansion of the Mombasa-Malindi Road, the dualling of the Nairobi-Mombasa Highway, the recent works at Makupa Causeway, Dongo Kundu bypass, the Nairobi Expressway, and the dualling of Murang’a-Nyeri Road. Included too is the opening up of the Northern Corridor through the Lapsset project, which will open up connectivity between counties and make it easier to move from one place to another. In addition, the influx of more, low-cost local airlines will spur more domestic travel.
Favourable tourism policy
With a new government comes new ways of doing things.
“It is a welcome sign to see a new government that is committed to the sector. We are looking at a very promising 2023 and beyond,” says Macharia.