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Why Kenya's tea plantations can be our Venice canals, Mt Fuji

Opinion
James Finlays tea plantation in Kericho. Such plantations can rival the traditional Big Five Kenya is known for. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Ironically, Italians in Venice are up in arms against too many tourists. 

In Japan, there are restrictions on visiting Mt Fuji or Fuji-San. In Kenya, we are struggling to hit five million tourists a year.

Venice gets only 20 million visitors annually, while Fuji receives up to five million. 

Why can’t we have such attractions? Why are we so obsessed with the Big Five? What are the "Small Five", and what can be our Venice and Mt Fuji?  

Mombasa, Malindi, and Lamu could be our Venice without canals. Their greatness would come from water just like Venice. Hamburg in Germany too has canals.

Truth be told, beyond walking on the beach, the three towns have no fascination with water.

Why are there no cruise ships from Mombasa to these ports? Why none to Pemba, Zanzibar or Dar es Salaam?

Suppose you have taken a ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar or from Luanda K’Atieno Beach to Mbita on Lake Victoria. In that case, you know what fascination with water is all about. 

Dhows have sailed from the Middle East and India using monsoons for centuries, so why can’t I take a ship or a boat from Mombasa to other towns? Do you find it odd driving from Mombasa to Lamu or Malindi?  

Why are there no cruise ships along the Indian Ocean? Why do Kenyans show off taking cruises in the Caribbean yet we have a coastline?  

Why can’t I visit all the ports on Lake Victoria on a luxury ferry? And isn't it odd that one would drive around Lake Naivasha? 

Venice is about its man-built canals, we do not have to build canals in the lakes or oceans, just boats, ferries or ships! 

Why are there no flying boats on Lake Naivasha or Victoria? They still fly in Vancouver, Canada. Nostalgia drives tourism in Venice. Why can’t we do the same in our waterways? Where are the dhows?  

What about making Mt  Kilimanjaro or Mt Kenya our own Mt Fuji with all their snow? The latter would be more Fuji because it’s sacred.

Ever seen a signboard on Mombasa Road or Namanga Road advertising Mt Kilimanjaro?  What of Mt Kenya? Where can one get the best view of Mt Kenya? Kilimanjaro? We can only guess!  

We have other "Fujis" like Ngong, Longonot or Aberdares. But since we see them every day, we see nothing special.

Think of the Great Rift Valley for visitors. Seen any advert welcoming you to Rift Valley? It’s only curio sellers who have the story. Viewpoints are private initiatives. Maybe familiarity breeds contempt.  

Counties were to market their tourist sites, but that is either a work in progress or never took off.

If you ask anyone what are the key attractions in their respective counties, you are more likely to get stereotypes, not reality.

Yet even stereotypes can be marketed. How much money does Kitui or Murang'a (Gaturi) make for being associated with witchcraft? Did we not stop bullfighting at Kasarani, yet Rodeo is big business elsewhere? 

Gilgil and Nakuru had Formula 1 racing tracks. We prefer to watch Formula 1 on TV.

Why are there no cable cars to go up Ngong or other "Fujis?" We use cable cars to get up the Great Wall of China.

Why didn’t we preserve some of the great walls around Mau Mau concentration camps? Why are Manyani and Mageta, the former detention camps not tourist destinations? 

There is one more attraction that would rival Fuji or the Canals of Venice - the tea plantations of Limuru or Kericho, but who advertises such attractions? Who advertises the deserts in the north, the other extreme from Limuru? 

Most visitors are quickly whisked to Nairobi National Park, missing the Limuru and Rift Valley tea plantations. Ever driven from Limuru town to Kiambu town through tea land at sunset? 

Where on earth can you get such beauty? Why don’t we sell our hydro dams as attractions for water sports? Why is downtown Nairobi, not a major tourist attraction?

Give credit, it’s becoming one over the weekends. Why can’t we sell our festivals like ngurarios and tero buru, among others?  

We can make the list longer.  France got 91 million tourists in 2019. That is more than its population!

Our target should be 60 million. We can’t get that many tourists without thinking outside the box.  More tourists could mean less taxes and less debt. Still not convinced of the need to market our country and counties? Let’s smell the coffee.  

By the way, the journey from Nairobi to Limuru is not 30km, it’s 100 years. Through this journey, you see Kenya’s history frozen and well preserved from the first tea farms to golf courses and original buildings.

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