Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika has assured that the county was fully prepared to host the World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally that is coming to the country for the third time in a row.
Governor Kihika said the county was ready to play its role in boosting domestic tourism, more so at a time when the country is recovering from economic aftershocks of the Covid-19 pandemic, adding that this year’s event was historical as it also marks 70 years since the WRC was first launched in the country.
“The WRC is part of our heritage and we are ready to hold a memorable Safari Rally this year,” Ms Kihika said.
Last year the county signed a pact to keep the event in the World Rally Championship calendar until 2026. This year it is scheduled between June 22 and June 25.
While noting that her administration was committed to promoting sports tourism Ms Kihika observed that Nakuru was once the spiritual home of sports and Langa Langa circuit, which she said was famous for bike and single-seater car races while the Rift Valley Motorsports Club at Solai and Mai Mahiu circuits still host kart racing, predominantly for young people.
The fame of sports in Nakuru, Kihika noted, extends beyond motorsport with Nakuru Boxing Club said to have produced legends like Philip Waruinge, 1972 Olympics Silver Medallist and first Kenyan to turn professional, his brother Sammy Mbogua and 1978 World Amateur Boxing Championships winner Steve Muchoki.
The Governor hailed the organizers of the Safari Rally for the selection of spectators’ stages which she said will help showcase to local and international visitors’ spectacular sites where they could also get to sample Naivasha’s hospitality and experience the Kenya safari as they troop to different spectator points.
In a speech delivered on her behalf by County Executive Committee Member (CECM) in charge of Trade, Tourism and Cooperatives Mr Stephen Kuria, the Governor underscored the importance of the approved rallying routes, saying the rally drivers will have a great experience driving in the wild and sometimes having to stop to give way to wild animals.
She said the county government will continue to upgrade the necessary infrastructure to enhance visitors’ experience along all the rally routes.
The tourism CECM revealed that besides the WRC the county was set to host the Love Festival in September in Naivasha adding that hospitality industry stakeholders should leverage on the two events, expected to attract thousands of international and local visitors to boost the industry.
CECM Kuria said Kenya is privileged and proud to host this event which is one of the Only 13 such world events that take place on the globe and will be watched by over two billion people worldwide which is incredible branding for the country.
“We want to give a Kenyan flavour to this international event by introducing hustler bazaars to help Kenyans interact with the rally drivers as they make some money by selling Kenyan products.”
Mr Kuria said the County was working with the national Government in setting up special points for streaming the rally live throughout the country to help every Kenyan have a piece of the rally.
The CECM was satisfied at the service venue in Naivasha and said they were working with the Transport Ministry to ensure traffic on the rally routes will be managed better than last year and observed that they had learnt vital lessons from last year’s event.
Nakuru County Tourism Association Chairman David Mwangi noted that hosting of events of WRC Safari Rally calibre was a source of direct investment as well as a source of additional income for tourism.
He said that direct investments in Naivasha will be accrued from hotels, leisure, fuel consumption, transport facilities, temporary employment and much more.
Mr Mwangi pointed out that many hotels were still under construction in Naivasha at present as investors target more domestic and international tourists after the world governing body, FIA, extended the hosting of the WRC status event in Kenya to 2026.
The organizers of the World Rally Championships (WRC) Safari Rally are expected to spend Sh5 billion on the event, with businesses set to reap big as drivers and more fans flock toNaivasha, in Nakuru County.
Veteran Kenyan rally drivers such as Carl Tundo who is the chair of the organizing committee, Phenius Kimanthi who is also the chair of the Kenya motorsport Association and famous female rally drivers Pauline Sheghu will also be taking part in this year`s event.
The Safari Rally was first held in 1953, as the East African Coronation Safari in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika as a celebration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In 1960 it was renamed the East African Safari Rally and kept that name until 1974, when it became the Kenya Safari Rally. It then evolved to the current modern-day WRC.
Safari is currently the most popular event on the WRC calendar alongside the 1000 Lakes of Finland and Monte Carlo.
By Esther Mwangi and Joseph Karume