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February 21, 2019

Great changes are coming to tourism industry

Elephants in a line
Elephants in a line

I heard the shouts from as far as Mombasa. The good man is back on his desk as the steering hands for the tourism industry. The good man had been on this desk before and there were good tidings then. It could have been from his efforts that we were doing well, or it could have been that the world was not so much biased in rating our country’s security situation. But the bottom line was that the tourism industry was doing well under the stewardship of Mr Balala. Now that he is back, there is a general mood of anticipation of good things coming. Much as the situations that brought about the decline of trading in tourism have been looking up good, give it up to Mr balala. He knew how to stir the soup and get it sweetened while hot. Now we can begin to feel his weight on the matters that be.

Good tidings come with a price. As the new Cabinet Secretary takes a hold on the job, new rules have been introduced within the core area of touring. It is true that the industry needs revamping in the area of guiding. The major selling point of tourism in Kenya is the safari. The wildlife experience in Kenya’s national parks is one of a kind. This is one force that drives tourists to flock into the country to watch the animals in their natural habitat. To get to the parks, the largest majority of tourists require to be guided. For the tourist to have a fulfilled wildlife experience, the guide must be knowledgeably in the field of wildlife study and good driving skills.

The guide must also be well informed about our country’s current affairs including the political and economic matters. Questions will always be asked which do not necessarily appertain to wildlife. A guide must be able to answer truthfully and accurately any questions asked by a tourist, which may help to dilute the wrong impressions created by the foreign press to the outside world. One cardinal rule that works for me is that never take sides while discussing politics with tourists. Do not criticise the ruling class of the country without giving your version of a solution. Do not demonise opposition political figures without good knowledge of political analysis. You could be talking to a political analyst who is very well informed of Kenya’s political arena, thereby exposing your lack of understanding of your own country affairs. That is why I am pleased with the new rules that a person who intends to work as a tourist guide in Kenya must demonstrate, by show of papers, that he or she has some basic training in the industry. Otherwise if things remain the same as they have been for years where anyone who knew the direction of the Mara would pick up clients and head to the bush, wonders would never cease to exist.

I was in Amboseli just before the world went into a recess to welcome baby Jesus. It is a normal occurrence to see the elephants coming down from Kilimanjaro to the swamps around the park. Normally, the elephants come down in a neat line, led by the oldest female in the herd. Males take up the rear and sometimes may not follow the exact trail that the whole herd used. The tourist vans would line up along the road in a strategic position and wait for the elephants to approach and cross the road. With the background of the Mt Kilimanjaro, the pictures are awesome even for the most experienced guides. It is during such waiting periods that a good guide would take the moment to explain to the clients about the park and the animals in it. But this was not the case for one guide who had parked behind my car.

One could clearly tell the driver/guide was ill informed about the trade. In one hand he had the radio microphone, talking shop with a colleague in another car. In the other hand, he held a cigarette and was freely smoking in the car, puffing smoke through the window towards the approaching elephants. One cheeky young male elephant in the group made as if to charge at the smoking driver. He panicked and in his hurry to start the van, he forgot the cutoff switch and the van could not start. He was frantically hooting at the surging elephant while all the other vehicles quietly watched the scenario. We all knew that the juvenile was just playing. Such are the driver/guides we don’t need in the bush.

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