Last week was a historical moment for Africa in general, and Kenya in particular. For a long time in our journalistic history, we had headlines that made people smile and go about their chores with energy and hope.
All newspapers screamed at the top of their voices that the most holy human being in the world was visiting Kenya. Just like the news of President Obama visiting the country, initially most people thought it was a hoax until the president’s security details started arriving, and were seen putting things in order.
With all the bad news that hit the country for a long time, coupled with warnings to the tourists not to visit Kenya – 'a hotbed of terrorists' – the coming of these icons of world power in both political and religious sphere was very special.
In our tourism industry, any good news gives us great hopes for future business. The Obama visit put to shame those who made such statement of “hotbed of terrorists”.
He came, he saw, and he loved what he saw. Although one would say all the strings were pulled to make sure nothing bad happened during his stay in the country, I saw no different performance in Kenya, of his security apparatus, more than it would have been had it been a different country.
We, in hospitality industry did not expect an overnight response from our source markets. It takes a long time for the visitors to start building their trust and the agents to restore itineraries heading to Kenya. But like the Pope said, it is hope that gives us the strength to fight on.
Then came the Holy Father. The reception was one that the country has never witnessed before. Even Pope John Paul, who came to the country three times, did not pull such a crowd. It showed just how much redemption the people of Kenya needed.
The newspapers had fed the nation numerous alarming and damning information that we had started developing armour of protection around us from unseen enemies. Politicians distanced themselves from the people who elected them to represent their interest.
The opposition negated every government move even when the move benefitted the masses. County leaders started turf wars between themselves for territorial supremacy.
Those who did not want to enter into the turf wars went busy trying to amass as much wealth as they could within the time they would be in control, knowing well they might not be re-elected back to their positions come next elections.
Corruption jumped into the red region. Every sector was affected. The country was bleeding and badly hurt. When we heard the Pope was coming to Kenya, it was the best news coming at such times. At last, God was sending His representative on earth to heal the hearts of His people.
When Obama visited the country, he recognised the problems affecting us and tried as much as he was capable of, as the president of the most powerful nation on earth – and with much persuasion to have a profound effect on the ruling class.
He offered solutions for some of the problems and left others for homegrown answers. When he went back, there was some backlash from some politicians from his country America, and also from here in Kenya.
Understandably so, those who felt affected by the comments of the great leader were those who benefit from the state of affairs in the country.
But it was the words of wisdom and holiness that the people of Kenya yearned for, from the Holy Man. It was the reason why all the people, regardless of their political divide, their religious affiliation, colour or creed, came from far and wide to see and listen to the words from the Pope.
He was received by all in equal admiration and respect. From his words, the hospitality industry has sprung into action in expectation of renewed interest for Kenya as the tourist destination of choice for most tour agents and planners.
We did not have as much hope when Obama visited seeing that the travel advisories from the US were still in force then. But the Popal visit revitalised the industry in a big way. We hope for a better touristic year in 2016.