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Mara upbeat as American tourists return

After an absence of more than a decade, tourists from US are back to Masai Mara Game Reserve.  The number of American tourists visiting the famed reserve to watch the ongoing wildebeests migration from Serengeti plains to Mara and to sample other products, may this year surpass those from China who have been dominant since 2013.

The Americans have largely been avoiding Kenya since the 2007-2008 post-election violence and later spates of terrorist attacks by Somalia-based terrorist group, Al-Shabaab.

Moses Kuyuoni, the Masai Mara Senior Warden says all high-end lodges and camps will be more than 50 per cent occupied by visitors from North America until the end of the peak season in October. More Americans are expected in December 2018 to February next year.

“It’s the first time in many years we are hosting them. They are back to reclaim their position, which had briefly been taken by Chinese,” he says.

The coming launch of direct flights by Kenya Airways from Nairobi to US in October, will likely boost arrivals during the December-February period and during the next year’s June-October peak season.

Kevin Mwendwa, general manager of Mara Intrepids and Mara Explorer Camps, which are managed by Heritage Group of Hotels, says this season they have been hosting above 65 per cent tourists from US. The bookings are long term. “They form a huge bulk of our visitors,” he says.

Lily Waddington, a hotelier in the reserve and the managing director of UK Magical Safaris Ltd, a London- based travel firm, says arrivals from US has since the beginning of the season surpassed that from UK.

“We have been arranging travels to the Mara and the Coast more for tourists from US than UK. The renewed interest is surprising,” said Waddington, who also owns Osero Camp, a high-end, 20-bed capacity establishment within Siana Conservancy in the Mara.

She says the recent visit by former US President Barack Obama and the expected tour by President Uhuru Kenyatta later this month to US, will in the long run see more tourists from the continent visit Kenya.

“The country is now considered by visitors from all parts of the world as safe after terrorist attacks reduced. The revision of travel advisories against visiting certain parts of Kenya by western nations has also boosted arrivals,” she adds.

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