Elgeyo Marakwet should leverage on athletics to boost tourism
By Janet Kimeto | May 7th 2021
Elgeyo Marakwet is one of the counties under the North Rift Regional Economic Bloc, which brings together eight counties of Nandi, Uasin Gishu, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Turkana and Samburu.
Elgeyo Markwet is known as the ‘County of Champions’ because of its many sportsmen and women who have brought honour and pride to Kenya at international events.
The county’s high altitude, which ranges between 2,200 and 2,500m above sea level, makes it an ideal place for the training of long-distance runners. As a result, the ‘County of Champions’ has more than 10 training camps for both Kenyan and foreign athletes around Iten and Kaptagat.
But besides hosting these athletics camps which attract local international visitors, the county has breath-taking sites that are potentially major tourist attractions.
They include Cheranganyi, Kipteber, Kipkunurr and Koisungur hills; Torok, Kessup, Arror, Kapkina, Kermet waterfall; Chebloch, Melwa and Teren gorges. Others are Kiplachoch cave, Kureswo hot spring, Kabolet, Chebara Dam and Kerio Valley rivers. It also has viewpoints such as Nyaru, Kamwosor, Samich, Kerio view, Chororget, Iten, Kaituren and St Kizito. Kerio escarpment is an ideal environment for paragliding sports.
In addition, Elgeyo Marakwet boasts of Rimoi National Reserve, which is under the Kenya Wildlife Service and the county government’s protection. The reserve has elephants, giraffes, zebras, waterbucks, impala, warthogs, monkeys, porcupines, dikdiks, hares and ground squirrels. There are also jackals, hyenas, wild cat and baboons, among others.
But despite these attractions, the county does not attract as many tourists as other counties, some which do not have even have half of what Elgeyo Marakwet boasts of in terms of tourist sites.
Fortunately, unlike many other devolved units, the county can spur its tourism fortunes by leveraging on its athletics prowess. Luckily, it has already packaged itself as a destination for sports tourism.
Sport tourism is all forms of active and passive involvement in sporting activity, participated casually or in an organised way for non-commercial or business/commercial reasons that necessitate travel away from home and work locality. Sport tourists can be classified as either ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ participants.
But to reap more from tourism, the county should harmonise both key tourism sites and sports tourism.
To improve sports tourism Elgeyo Marakwet needs to add value on sports by developing a world-class athletics stadium that will attract more international athletes for training. Being the ‘County of Champions’, it should also host at least one annual international sports event.
The event would not only benefit the sports fraternity but would massively boost tourism in the county and region because sports involves participants and spectators who require eateries, accommodation, transport, transfers, attractions and entertainment.
The county government together with the local communities and private investors should work hand in hand to ensure that tourism attractions are eye-catching and in line with international standards. This can be achieved by ensuring tourism attractions are accessible with good signage, quality amenities, eateries and varied accommodation.
They should also ensure that activities like athletics, hiking, paragliding and biking are well planned and add value to the tourists in a manner that is memorable and unique to the county.
Training of community guides should be undertaken by the Department of Tourism on the varied tourism attractions in the county. At the very least, they should also learn one foreign language for easy communication with foreign tourists. Importantly, they should be conversant with the terrain and details of every tourist attraction.
The county government should build tourism offices at every attraction site. The offices should have security and liaison personnel, a ticketing section, reservation desk and community guides. Such an initiative will protect tourists, thus making the attractions more appealing to both local and international visitors.
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