If Covid taught travellers anything, it’s tourism begins at home

Kenyans had been holidaying abroad yet wonders abound locally

In Summary

• Foreigners are still welcome but we should not wait for their forex when we can help

• There are beaches, national parks and historical monuments waiting for us to explore

Swimming pool at the Ocean Beach Resort in Malindi
Swimming pool at the Ocean Beach Resort in Malindi

For many years, the tourism industry has relied on the foreign market to thrive.

Many Kenyans used to save money to go abroad for holiday in tourism destinations including Dubai, Seychelles and South Africa.

It was rare for Kenyans to embrace their tourism attractions, which are most loved by foreigners, who come all the way from Europe and elsewhere to enjoy the nature in our destination.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country, the trend has changed. It started with the closure of borders and foreign countries banning their citizens from touring certain countries, including Kenya.

Kenyans could also not go abroad for holidays, and the only option was to begin exploring their own country.

This is when many Kenyans realised the beauty of our country, including the coastal region with its scenic beaches, national parks and historical monuments.

Today, more Kenyans are touring their country than before, and this is a positive move, which will ensure we build our own economy instead of waiting for foreigners to bring in foreign exchange.

Foreigners are still welcome but first, we need to love our country and know the attractions, instead of waiting for others to come and explore them.

Domestic tourists serve food in Malindi
Domestic tourists serve food in Malindi

Tourism CS Najib Balala must be hailed for his consistent efforts to promote domestic tourism through his ministry and particularly the Kenya Tourism Board.

In fact, Balala has been instrumental in advocating for domestic tourism even before Covid. He used to tell investors to set up special kitties for locals to tour their own country.

Last year, he spearheaded the rebranding of the Coastal circuits and made sure each area showcased their attraction, which was a really positive move.

With the current transportation, one can easily board SGR from Nairobi to Mombasa and head to either North or South Coast for holiday on a weekend.

In the national parks, there are also more Kenyans visiting the park, with affordable rates proving attractive.

It was sad to see largely only international tourists coming to our parks and enjoying the Big Five and the many wildlife available before.

The foreigners also had in their calendar the months of the wildebeest migration. They would fill Maasai Mara to enjoy the spectacle.

At the Coast, there is also the whale migration and dolphin watch, which comes at almost the same time as the wildebeest migration and is a major tourism attraction.

As Balala put it last week, the domestic market is rich and has the potential to revive the tourism economy.

We have as a country an advantage of domestic flights, which are also available on a daily basis. From Wilson and Jomo Kenyatta International airports to many destinations in the country, including Diani, Eldoret, Kisumu, Lamu, Malindi, Maasai Mara and Mombasa.

This gives the local traveller a chance to tour different destinations countrywide and explore the beauty of the country.

Let’s stand as a country to embrace our tourism attractions so as to promote our own.