Nakuru County Government and Egerton University have agreed to collaborate in efforts to revive the tourism and hospitality sectors which are still struggling to recover from the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a consultative forum, Governor Lee Kinyanjui and the University’s Vice Chancellor Professor Isaac Kibwage pledged to enhance cooperation between the government and private players in the sectors to promote Lord Egerton Castle, Egerton University Agriculture Resource Center (ARC) Hotel and Annual Mau-Egerton University Marathon as some tourism and travel destinations in the county.
Governor Kinyanjui noted that tourism and hospitality marketing agencies at both counties and national level have over the years focused too much on wildlife and beach products, neglecting cultural attractions and conference facilities, which have traditionally relied on fragmented promotions by the proprietors.
This he said was happening against the background that there were various other undiscovered tourist destinations around the country.
The Governor observed that enhancing equal distribution of resources to all sectors and regions would open up more destinations that would inversely arouse interest among locals.
“We cannot emphasize the role of synergies and partnerships enough as we work towards re-starting of tourism. We must continue to take advantage of the new opportunities in travel, and also look out for the emerging trends,” said Kinyanjui
The 52 roomed Lord Egerton Castle was put up between 1938 to 1954 by Colonial settler Lord Maurice Egerton, who was turned down twice by the woman he loved, even after building the castle especially for her. Heartbroken, he banned all women from castle and on its 100-acre grounds.
While noting that Nakuru County has been recognized as World heritage site for tourism and culture, the Governor said that he would seek to enhance linkages that would leverage the gazette of Lord Egerton castle as a historic site.
Kinyanjui observed, “Very interesting stories of love revolve around this founder of Egerton University and his castle. Visitors will be thrilled to learn that the fourth Baron Egerton of Tatton after being rejected by his fiancé pinned notices on trees warning that the grounds were out of bounds for women and that any woman who disobeyed the notice risked being shot.”
He added that his administration had put in place collaborative efforts with various State agencies to improve infrastructure within the devolved unit thereby enabling local and foreign tourists to visit some tourist products that have not been well marketed in Nakuru, including the of Kariandusi Prehistoric Site Museum in Gilgil Sub-County, Hyrax Hill Prehistoric Site and Menengai Crater both in Nakuru Town East Sub-County and the six-kilometer long Second World War Bomb Shelter in Eastern Mau Forest within Molo Sub-County.
“With road transport being the key mode of transport, many road networks where tourist attraction sites are located have been upgraded. This has also involved the constructing of new routes in those places where it was non-existent. Infrastructure upgrades have not only been focused on road networks but also on railways and the Lanet airports,” the Governor pointed out.
The consultative forum was also graced by Deputy Governor Dr Eric Korir, acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Extension) Professor Bockline Bebe, acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration Planning and Development), Professor Richard Mulwa, Principal Nakuru City Campus College Professor Joshua Ogendo, acting Director (Research and Extension) Professor Nancy Mungai and Director Marketing, Resource Mobilization and Agro-science Park Professor Paul Kimurto.
According to Kinyanjui, the University’s Agriculture Resource Center (ARC) Hotel needed to tap into conference tourism, a relatively new concept in the industry, which revolves around service provision to business travelers attending seminars, workshops, conferences and conventions.
“At the moment, conference tourism is the largest and fastest growing segment of the modern tourism sector. It has a higher financial impact because conference travelers spend more than leisure travelers. Often their expenses are paid for by the organizations they represent, leaving the tourists with substantial disposable incomes that they can spend,” he noted.
The governor said Njoro where the Agriculture Resource Center (ARC) Hotel is located has always been attractive to government institutions, parastatals, non-governmental organizations and private companies that wanted to be out of the busy Central Business District.
The three star hotel features 90 guest rooms comprising of 66 elegantly furnished rooms and 24 standard ones. It is also equipped with a modern gymnasium and half Olympic size swimming pool
The tourism sector performance report 2021 shows that the industry earnings jumped 65 percent to Sh146.51 billion last year up from Sh88.56 billion in 2020.
Tourist arrivals through airports and border points also increased 53.3 percent to 870,465 from 567,848 over the period. About 26.4 per cent visited for business meetings, conferences and exhibitions.
The wanting performance in the sector, according to Governor Kinyanjui, was due to dependence on the national government to market tourism destinations in all counties.
Tourism is not a devolved sector but some of the functions such as zoning, law enforcement, planning, and partnerships are devolved to the counties.
The Governor noted that domestic tourism in Kenya is a field that the industry players ought to tap into more to increase revenue as it holds huge potential and its importance for economic development cannot be underestimated.
“Many Kenyans prefer to travel to international destinations over local destinations while some do not travel at all. This is while keeping in mind that every time we travel and buy outside the country we are inadvertently taking away the economic growth we could be retaining in our country,” he observed.
“I believe that we need to package local tourism better and market it to our own local market to not only sustain the volatile sector but also provide opportunities for locals to explore their country,” he said.
Kinyanjui indicated that it was important for tourism industry players including the government to unite and realize the potential of domestic tourism adding that as the industry grows, more local businesses would thrive and as a result more employment opportunities would be unlocked.
“More campaigns should be conducted with a view of educating and familiarizing the locals about available local destinations and the importance of tourism in a society. Also packaged in affordable rates, they will create a desire among the locals to visit and explore more local destinations,” he noted.
The governor said that it is important to realize that for tourism to succeed, a greater part depends on the goodwill of the locals more than the other industries.
“The locals must be happy with the visitors and the security of the knowledge that the presence of the visitors around will not affect their operations both socially, economically and even politically and that they will not impose values that are not welcomed in their society. This can easily be achieved when the locals are engaged by involving them in dialogues relating to the influence of tourism in that particular area,” noted the county chief.
The tourism and travel sectors slumped in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, with over 81 percent of firms in the industries laying off most of their employees and 31 percent implementing more than 70 percent pay cut, the ministry of tourism and wildlife reported in June 2020
By Charloth Chepkemoi and Elizabeth Simiyu