Marathons are a catalyst for Kenya's tourism

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge crosses the line to win the Berlin Marathon in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022. [AP Photo]

Today, the world will turn its gaze towards Germany as thousands of runners take to the streets for the highly anticipated Berlin Marathon.

The marathon is part of the prestigious World Marathon Majors. It is also not just a test of athletic prowess; but a powerful tool for Kenya to showcase its dominance in long-distance running and promote itself as a premier tourist destination.

Kenya’s mastery in long-distance running is well-established, evidenced by its consistent success in elite international circuits like the Olympics and World Championships. When the conversation shifts to marathons and athletics, Kenya automatically comes to mind.

Over the years, marathons have played a pivotal role in marketing Kenya as an ideal tourist destination. For many athletes competing in these premier marathons, there exists a sub-conscious desire to visit Kenya – experience its breathtaking beauty and perhaps meet some of the remarkable individuals who personify endurance running.

What’s more captivating is the global television coverage that accompanies these events. For instance, the 2022 New York City Marathon reached more than 530 million homes across 182 countries and territories. The London Marathon draws between four and five million viewers in the UK alone and is broadcast in over 196 countries.

The power and popularity of these events lie in their ability to effortlessly generate publicity for destinations. The vast audience and visibility that come with flying the Kenyan flag across Europe and other continents during marathons are truly invaluable. It’s simple: when people see it, they want to go there!

Statistics show marathon events have played a role in elevating Kenya to upper echelons of international sports tourism destinations. Kenya is reaping well on this.

Back at home, our premier long-distance road races have similarly played a crucial role in establishing Kenya as the ultimate destination for runners across various disciplines. Marathons like the Standard Chartered-Nairobi, Eldoret City marathon among others have paved the way for Kenya’s position as a top destination for runners.

The incredible success of our athletes on the global stage has created an undeniable allure for visitors to come and train on the very grounds where world champions hone their skills.

Kenya’s breathtaking geographical landscape, featuring hills and valleys, coupled with high altitude locations, makes it an ideal training ground for athletes from around the world. Here, they can experience firsthand what it means to train like a Kenyan athlete, drawing inspiration from the very soil that has produced some of the world’s greatest runners.

As a nation blessed with stunning landscapes, abundant wildlife, great infrastructure, and enviable weather, we are determined to leverage these assets to catalyse and enhance our marketing efforts. Kenya offers something for everyone, from safari enthusiasts exploring our national parks to adventure seekers scaling our mountains, and now, runners seeking to train in the footsteps of legends.

Marathons have evolved into more than just sporting events; they have become powerful tools for promoting Kenya’s sporting excellence and tourism appeal. These races provide a global platform for Kenya to shine, attracting attention from millions of viewers worldwide and leaving an indelible impression on those who witness our athletes’ remarkable feats.

As we ride the wave of increased international arrivals, we must capitalise on the golden opportunity marathons present to showcase Kenya’s splendour and allure as a tourist destination.

Together, we can run towards a future where Kenya stands not only as a world-class sporting nation but as a top-tier global tourism destination, beckoning travellers from every corner of the globe to experience the magic of Kenya.

The writer is acting CEO of the Kenya Tourism Board

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