The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife is looking into ways of revamping and increasing tourism opportunities in many of the National Parks and Game Reserves in the country in order to attract more local and foreign tourists.
Speaking when he went with his team on a hike to Mt. Longonot National Park in Naivasha on Saturday, Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary (CS) Najib Balala said Mt. Longonot for instance has a lot of untapped tourism potential which has not been exploited to the optimum to spur local and foreign tourism growth in the park.
“There are many camping and picnic sites here which have not been fully exploited,” Balala said adding that a zip liner across the crater, an eatery and a cable car like the one found in a tourism facility in Cape town in South Africa would attract more tourist to the park.
He revealed that their hike to Mt. Longonot was in preparation for the hike to Mount Kenya next Friday as part of the events to raise funds to revamp the Mt. Kenya National Park which he said also has high unexploited potential.
Balala will be joined in the hike by several dignitaries both from the public and private sector who will also be sponsoring the hike and the fundraiser.
During the Covid-19 period, the tourist sector was hard hit and is now just rising from the ashes and things are looking up. The CS revealed that Mt. Longonot received 60,000 visitors post Covid-19 period and has so far received 17,000 from the beginning of the year of which indicates by the end of the year, it could surpass the 60,000 visitors.
Balala who was accompanied by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Director General Brigadier (Rtd) John Migui Waweru revealed that the Hells Gate National Park in Naivasha, now renamed Heaven’s Gate National Park which was closed to revamp Park gorges would be reopened in the next few months after the rains subside.
The CS said they were using the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) to prepare escape routes, install alarm systems and improve the general security in the ravines before it can be reopened.
In September, 2019, flash floods killed six family members who were foreign tourists and their tour guide at the park. Earlier in 2012, at least six people died after they were reportedly swept away by flash floods at Hell’s Gate in Naivasha. This is because when it rains in upper Suswa area, water sometimes gashes into these gorges which are downstream thus flooding the canyons.
Mount Longonot is a stratovolcano located southeast of Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley. It is thought to have last erupted in the 1860s. Its name is derived from the Maasai word Oloonong’ot, meaning “mountains of many spurs” or “steep ridges”.
Tourism is Kenya`s second largest source of foreign exchange earner followed by agriculture. The main tourist attractions are photo safaris through 19 national parks and game reserves in the country.
The tourism sector employs at least 1.1 million people in Kenya directly and indirectly but at the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, many people lost their jobs as the sector slumped after local and international travel was restricted.
Statistics from the Tourism Research Institute show Kenya registered a 34.76 percentage growth in the number of international visitor arrivals in 2021 that stood at 870,465, as compared to 567,848 in 2020 at the onset of Covid-19 pandemic.
Earnings from international arrivals in Kenya amounted to Sh146.5 or 1.3 billion U.S. dollars in the 2021.
By Mabel Keya –Shikuku