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Mara eyes 1.7m tourists as high season peaks

Peter Leshan @PeopleDailyKe

Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala says about 1.7 million tourists will have visited Masai Mara Game Reserve before the end of the year.

He said compared to previous years, more tourists are visiting the conservancy, adding hotels are now recording above 90 per cent bed occupancies. “The arrivals are quite impressive. Tourists from all parts of the world are trooping the Mara to sample tourism products and to watch the on-going wildebeest migration,” he said.

The CS wants hoteliers to diversify their products so as to attract tourists throughout the year. “Dependency on the July-October peak season is making the reserve not to compete with other tourist destinations in the world,” he said.

Speaking on Saturday when he toured the park to watch the on-going wildebeest migration, Balala regretted that the trek is a seasonal event, hence there is need to diversify to attract tourists even during the low season. “Dependency on one event very year, is no longer sustainable. It is also responsible for business and employment loses,” he said.

Balala asked hotels and the Narok County government, which manages the park, to review tariffs and fees to ensure local and international tourists visit the Mara in bigger numbers. “We should have packages for different visitors in different seasons. During the low season, they should charge reasonable hotel and park entry rates to ensure a continued flow of visitors,” he said.

The CS said apart from the migration, the Mara hosts wildlife species that are not easily found in other national parks and game reserves. He asked hotels should maintain high standards to compete with other destinations in the world and the county government to keep on improving on roads inside the park, which are well paved this season.

Balala pleaded with Narok Governor Samuel Tunai, who was present, to ensure that the state of game viewing paths in the section that was formerly being managed by the defunct Narok county council are also improved.

The ongoing upgrading of Narok-Sekenani Gate road to bitumen, on completion, will cut the time tourists use to reach the park and also make more visitors access Mara by road.

Balala hailed the county government for eradicating cattle grazing in the park, saying apart from being an eye sore to visitors, it was fuelling wildlife-human conflict.

Tunai said the county had entered an agreement with a UK based news agency, Thomson Reuters, to market the reserve, adding that plans were underway to improve road networks inside and outside the reserve. “Reuters will from this week be relaying feeds on migration to the world audience. We have agreed that they should also market other products to boost future arrivals,” he said.

Hoteliers told Travelwise that lodges and camps inside the park are currently recording between 85 per cent and 90 per cent bed occupancies. “Because migration is happening inside the park, lodges and camps there are registering high occupancies. Those outside the park are between 70 per cent to 80 per cent occupied,” said Kevin Mwendwa, the general manager Mara Intrepids and Mara Explorer Camps. Ends…

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He says compared to previous years, more tourists are visiting the game reserve, adding hotels are now recording above 90 per cent bed occupancies. “The arrivals are quite impressive. Tourists from all parts of the world are trooping the Mara to sample tourism products and to watch the on-going migration of wildebeests from Serengeti in Tanzania,” he says.

And he want hoteliers there to diversify their products to attract tourists throughout every year. He says dependency on the July-October peaks season only is making the game reserve not to compete with other tourist destinations in the world.

The annual wildebeests migration, he says is a seasonal event, hence need to diversify to attract tourists even during the low season.

“Dependency on one event very year, is no longer sustainable. It is also responsible for business and employment loses,” he says.

Balala further wants hotels and Narok County government, which manages the park, to review tariffs, and fees to ensure local and international tourists visit Mara in big numbers.

“Hotels and the county government should have packages for different visitors during low and peak seasons. During the low season, they should charge reasonable bed occupancy and park entry fees to ensure continued flow of visitors throughout the year,” he says.

The Mara, the CS adds has different species of wildlife, observing that marketing the migration only was responsible for slump in arrivals whenever wildebeests return to Serengeti National Park. “Mara is unique in many ways. Apart from the migration, it hosts wildlife species that are not easily found in other national parks and game reserves,” he adds.

Speaking on Saturday when he toured the park to watch the on-going migration, he said that hotels should maintain high standards to compete with other destinations in the world and asked the county government to improve on roads inside the park.

Roads within the Mara Triangle, he said were well paved and asked Governor Samuel Tunai who was present to ensure that the state of game viewing paths in the section that was formerly being managed by the defunct Narok county council are also improved.

The ongoing upgrading of Narok-Sekenani Gate road to bitumen, he said, on completion, would cut the time tourists use to reach the park and also make more visitors access Mara by road.

He hailed the county for eradicating cattle grazing in the park, saying apart from being an eye sore to visitors, it was fuelling wildlife-human conflict. Tunai said the county had entered an agreement with a UK based news agency, Thomson Reuters, to market the reserve, adding that plans were underway to improve road network inside and outside the park for visitors to easily access the world famed tourist destination. “Reuters will from this week be relaying feeds on migration to the world audience. We have agreed that they should also market other products to boost future arrivals,” he said.

Hoteliers told Travelwise that lodges and camps inside the park are currently recording between 85 per cent and 90 per cent bed occupancies. “Because migration is happening inside the park, lodges and camps there are registering high occupancies. Those outside the park are between 70 per cent to 80 per cent occupied,” said Kevin Mwendwa, the general manager Mara Intrepids and Mara Explorer Camps. Ends…

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