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Domestic tourists flock Coast, national parks easter celebrations

Peter Leshan, Josephat Kinyua and Harrison Kivisu @PeopleDailyKe

A mad rush for Coast holiday destinations by domestic tourists this Easter holiday has seen the SGR train fully booked for the next two weeks, forcing last-minute holiday seekers to seek flights and road trips.

As a result, return airfare from Nairobi to Mombasa have more than doubled from Sh8,000 to as high as Sh20,000. In the Masai Mara Game Reserve, domestic tourists will be the majority of visitors during Easter, hoteliers say. Yesterday, hotel managers were busy making final arrangements to receive the guests.

The managers say a few foreign visitors are also expected. “Apart from a few tourists mainly from India, locals will be the majority. It will be just like the previous holidays,” says Kevin Mwendwa, manager, Mara Intrepids and Mara Explorer Camps.

He said most hotels have reduced full board prices for domestic visitors, adding that only a small number of foreign tourists are expected because of the current low season.

The peak season starts in July and ends in early October. “We want citizens and foreigners resident here to visit. That’s why we have slashed fees for them,” said Mwendwa. Keekorok Lodge, Sarova Mara Game Camp, Serena Mara Lodge, Kempinski Olare Mara Camp, Sopa Lodge and Angama Camp are some of hotels that will be busy. Most of their clients will be from India and Pakistan.

Early birds enjoy the pool at Bahari Beach Hotel, Mombasa, which is fully booked for Easter. Photo/BONNY MUSANGI

Hotels in Narok town will be hosting locals who will be touring the Mara for only game viewing.

“They are keen on game drives only, so we have made arrangements for them to carry packed lunches,” says Ishmael Ayabei, the manager Chambai Springs.

Seasons Hotel, Mara Frontier, Kim’s Guest House, Millennium Hotel and Mid Rock Guest House expect to be fully booked, The story is different for Mount Kenya region hotels, which have recorded poor Easter bookings.

The hotels with a combined bed capacity of more than 1,000, had recorded less than 40 per cent of rooms booked three days before the festival season kicks off tomorrow.

Managers interviewed said they were banking on domestic visitors who form the bulk of tourists and usually book last minute. “The region currently faces economic difficulties, with most of the residents having reduced spending power, but we feel that our hotels will attain 100 per cent bed occupancy by Friday.

Our customers rarely book in advance,” said Charles Karuga, the region’s tourism circuit secretary. Peter Mwangi, a manager at White Rhino Hotel in Nyeri town, said few people book in advance, but he is hopeful the situation will improve. “We have been doing badly but we hope by Friday night, we will have full bookings.

This is what happened during Christmas festivities last year. We had less than 40 per cent booking on December 23, but by Christmas, the entire hotel was fully booked until New Years Eve,” said Mwangi.

Karuga, who has a vast experience of the Mt Kenya region’s tourism industry, said the region arguably has the best travel experience.

“This is the only place where one can view animals including Big Five and share the country’s heritage, but it is not fully advertised despite pledges of county governors in the region to market tourism facilities,” he said.

Meanwhile, major Coast hotels are registering 100 per cent bookings for the Easter Holiday celebrations, which begins today as local and international visitors flock the tourist destination.

Most of the hotels and resorts in Mombasa are fully booked and stakeholders are upbeat the situation will last until May this year when the season will be at its lowest point. Players say Easter holiday bookings have thrown Coast hotels a short lifeline, opening a brief window for them to make money as bed occupancy levels shoot to between 80 and 100 per cent.

Among the hotels reaping big is Bahari Beach in Mombasa, which is already recording 100 per cent bookings. About 70 per cent of arrivals are international tourists from Germany, Austria, Britain, Norway and Poland. Bahari Beach Hotel operations Manager Godfrey Juma said the hotel is enjoying huge number of foreign arrivals.

“The last two months have seen a significant improvement, especially from foreign arrivals. We expect the status to extend until end of May when the low season will be beckoning,” said Juma.

Some of the foreign tourists credited the rise in foreigners’ interest to the Coast region to improved security and end of political stalemate in the country as what has enabled foreign families to head to the Coast.

“The Kenyan coast offers the best hospitality services. The region is always the favourite holiday destination for my family, what we would want to urge is to ensure direct charter flights from London to Mombasa.

This will ease our movement to Kenya,” said a German tourist Colin Lestor. According to Sai Rock beach resort General Manager Robert Kiiri, the hotel will be fully booked from today, mostly by domestic tourists on family holiday. Most of the bookings are from Nairobi.

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