By George Sayagie and Patrick Lang’at
The Narok County government has launched an ambitious plan to revitalise the world-famous Maasai Mara game reserve in a bid to double tourist numbers in one year.
Top on its plans is to diversify the options offered by the game reserve to avoid a very uneven trend where during its high season — between June and September — hotels record 100 per cent booking, only for visitors to dwindle so much that some facilities close during low seasons.
Narok Governor Samwel Tunai told the Nation that the county will bank on Maasai culture, the improvement of the six airstrips in Mara, and the tarmacking of the Narok-Mara road to promote all year round visits to the game reserve.
“We are keen to sell the Mara to the world as a premier holiday destination, the Mara as the eighth wonder of the world due to its iconic wildebeest migration, and as a destination for filmmakers and as a place of choice,” said Mr Tunai.
The governor said a bigger focus on the Maasai culture will be introduced, with culture tourism being boosted to have constant visits to the reserve.
“While the wildebeest migration in the Mara is iconic, the Maasai culture is just as spectacular, and mind-blowing,” Mr Tunai said.
The governor spoke at the Mara Serena Hotel after he signed a one-year deal with international news agency, Reuters, to market the Maasai Mara to the world.
The county is also seeking to promote local tourism, which has been on an upward trend countrywide.
From just a little over half a million Kenyans visiting national parks and game reserves, 800,000 Kenyans toured the length and breadth of Kenya in 2017.
“In the Mara, we want to look at ways in which we can have a tourist spend a lot longer than the average two to three days they spend here,” Mr Tunai said.
Visitors to national parks and game reserves — with Nairobi orphanage, Lake Nakuru, Naivasha’s Hell’s Gate, Kisumu’s Impala Sanctuary, Nairobi National Park and the Mara leading in that order — rose by 2.6 per cent to 2.345 million in 2017.
The rebirth of the Mara comes as local carrier, Silverstone Air, introduced daily flights between Nairobi and the reserve, raising competition for customers on the route that is already served by Fly-Sax, Safarilink, AirKenya and Blue Sky. The airline was until last October operating as a charter carrier.