In the busy Nairobi streets, Alice Kamunge is in perfect camouflage. She is in every way the middle-aged Nairobi woman going about her business. She shares why she prefers to let her country take the limelight
From a purely visual perspective nothing about Alice would lead one to think that she is the woman behind a nationally celebrated occasion.
In 1999 Mrs Kamunge sprouted forth the idea of a pageant -Miss Tourism Kenya (MTK) -that celebrated Kenya for its beautiful landscapes and cultures. Back then, as tourism was flailing due to political upheavals, she asked herself: “What can I do to market Kenya for tourism to boom?”
As a private season, she recognised that there was little she could do to make an impact. But then the idea of Miss Tourism Kenya dawned on her.
“I had passion for fashion and beauty and I also loved the adventure of tourism in our country,” she says. “Miss Tourism was my hummingbird effort (like Prof Wangari Maathai always said) to give my contribution,” she says. “I am very proud of Miss Tourism Kenya. It makes Kenyan remember their roots. It’s a great event.”
Season two of MTK -from 2018 to 2022- comes with even more excitement. The 2018 competition will take place on October 13 at the Safari Park Hotel.
The girls will battle it out with the winner bagging Sh1.2 million worth of a contract and travel to Malaysia to represent Kenya for the Miss Tourism International finals in December. The first runners up (number two) also gets the opportunity to travel to China in December for the Miss Tourism Queen of the Year finals.
Mrs Kamunge has, over the years, since 1999, taken it upon herself to see successful finals held. “It has not been easy. A successful pageant needs between Sh20 million and Sh50 million. But the passion I have had for beauty vis-à-vis my country has seen me do my best to see the pageant through,” she explains.
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As the National Director of MTK, she has seen the pageant through six finals: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2013, 2015 and 2016. The 2018 event will be her seventh.
Since 2013, she has been remodelling the pageant to fit into the devolved system of governance to enable production of a successful cost effective event even at the county level.
“Miss Tourism Kenya is one of events meant to showcase and celebrate our achievements as a country. Counties get an opportunity to showcase their tourism and cultural strength while articulating their investment opportunities and best environmental practices,” she says.
Today Miss Tourism Kenya has partnered with two international franchises - Miss Tourism International (held in Malaysia)and Miss Tourism Queen of the year (held in China) - where Kenyan finalists are sent to represent the country.
Around the world other Miss Tourism pageants like Miss Tourism planet (held in Greece), Miss Tourism World (held in UK), and Miss Tourism Universe (held in Lebanon) are conducted to market countries for tourism. Mrs Kamunge’s prayer is for Kenyans to own and be even more proud of the pageant as it directly represents the beauty of our country and its natural resources.
“We appeal to well-wishers to support this worthy event to enable us hold more activities,” she says.
The current structure is such that Miss Tourism is held at the county level and 47 winners sent to Nairobi to compete at the national event.
County first ladies are the patrons of the pageant. The success MTK has had thus far, notes Mrs Kamunge, is largely because of support from county governments.
“Miss Tourism Kenya may be my brainchild but its success is solely because we have received support from many partners - especially County Governments of Kenya and the County first ladies,” she adds. “Without them we would not have realized our objectives. We hope this time round we will receive similar support.”
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