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Tourists love magical Kenya, let’s keep them coming

The unique mix of the Big Five is a great value proposition that has seen Kenya’s fame increase globally

By MURIITHI NDEGWA

The world loves Magical Kenya, and this love story is getting better as the country embraces diversity in tribe, race and religion. Kenya has opened her doors to business people, expatriates, investors and tourists from all over the world. The future looks promising, especially in the tourism sector where an increase in visitor numbers automatically translates to more revenue and a boost to the economy.

In 2017, earnings from the industry grew by 20 per cent to KSh120 billion despite a tense political environment, the highest earnings recorded by the sector this decade.

Not long ago, the country received positive visibility and endorsement through global accolades such as World Travel Awards’ declaration of Kenya as the world’s best Safari destination.

Our unique proposition

Kenya prides itself as one of the few countries in the world where a visitor can spot all the Big 5 – the African animals that early days’ big game hunters considered most difficult to hunt on foot.

When visiting Kenya, most tourists come with ‘the Big 5’ checklist and failure to spot even one animal spells a disappointment. An article on Emerald Insight titled “The importance of destination image analysis to UK rural tourism” notes satisfaction with the tourist experience as critical in encouraging positive word of mouth and repeat visits to a destination. Kenya’s tourism sector growth is a clear indicator that we are unrivalled. The 25th annual World Travel Awards held in Durban South Africa in September 2018, feted Diani as Africa’s leading beach destination and Maasai Mara the leading National Park in 2018. Diani’s strategic location, white sandy beach, and the unique blend of flora and fauna has seen it voted the best destination beach in Africa four years in a row. Indeed, Kenya has a unique proposition and the Big 5 form the basis of wildlife safaris.

The big 5

The African Elephant

African elephants are described as one of Africa’s most iconic animals and the world’s biggest land mammal. Elephants live in big herds led by females who make choices on where to go, when to eat, how long to stay anywhere and how to deal with any potential danger. From the age of 13 years, male elephants live separately and begin to look for a mate when they hit 30.

The Lion

The most famous of the Big Five has earned itself many titles – the King of the Savannah, the King of the Beasts and the King of the Jungle. The lion exists in groups, known as prides, consisting of anything from 15 to 40 members. One pride contains related females and their young ones and a dominant male who wins their place through fierce battles with rival males. These fiercest and largest predators are unique in many ways. First, all the males have a mane except those that reside in the Tsavo. Secondly, females do the hunting, as the male offer protection. Once food is brought, the males eat first, followed by the cabs and then the females.

The African leopard

These are considered solitary creatures and the hardest to find while on Safari. They sleep during the day, and hunt at night by ambushing their prey. These creatures are strong and can drag their prey, even three times the weight of their own body, up a tree for safe eating. Leopards have hunting territories, which are guarded. They use spray of urine and claw marks on trees to make their presence known.

The Cape or African Buffalo

This creature is different from Asia’s water buffalo, it has never been tamed and since you can’t predict its moves, it is considered the most dangerous of the Big Five. Surprisingly, it is a very social creature and the easiest to find. They live in massive herds of up to 500, and they sport a breath-taking set of horns mainly for fighting and protecting the herd. In many occasions, when lions have taken younger members of the herd, they respond en masse and rescue them from the lion’s jaws, literally!

Rhino

When the Dutch Settlers – the Boers – came to Africa, they named one specie white rhino due to its wide or ‘wyd’ mouth. The other one automatically became the black rhino. Both species are grey in colour, but the white rhino is heavier– sometimes weighing 2,500kg whereas the black one peaks at 1,400kg. The black rhino is more elusive, solitary and it is considered more dangerous due to its very volatile nature. Rhinos only bear one calf per birth, and while the female white rhino always keeps its calf in front of her the black rhino keep hers behind. Interestingly, Rhinos love wallowing and get caked in the mud, which acts as a bug repellent, and sun screen.

The unique mix of the Big Five is a great value proposition that has seen Kenya’s fame increase globally. As a result, tourism is the second best foreign exchange earner in Kenya after agriculture, and one of the sectors with the best trickle down and multiplier effect.  A huge number of businesses benefit from increased tourist numbers ranging from transportation services such as airlines, railways, taxi cabs, hospitality services such as game lodges, resorts, hotels to tour operators and travel agencies among others.

If visitors encounter experiences that differ from their expectations, this may cause cognitive dissonance and may trigger poor performance of the sector and loss of brand equity.

Muriithi Ndegwa, OGW, HSC, FKIM, KIM Executive Director / CEO.  Email: mndegwa@kim.ac.ke Twitter: @MuriithiNdegwa

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