Tourism stakeholders have dismissed fears that Kenya will lose out on revenue generated by the annual wildebeest migration.
It is the first time in the country’s history that a General Election is coinciding with crossing of close to two million animals in the Mara River – in what is considered one of the greatest marvels of nature.
The experience started in late June, and is expected to peak in August, when the country goes to the poll.
Earlier reports by hotels and camps around Maasai Mara National Reserve indicated tourists are apprehensive over extending their stay beyond August 8.
When Saturday Standard visited Mara, tour agencies and hotels said compared to previous years, the arrival of tourists this year has been slow.
“July and August are peak months due to the wildebeest migration, but this time, things are slow,” said William ole Pesi, a local tour guide who has worked with the Mara for more than two decades.
Mike Macharia, CEO of Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers however said they have had consultative meetings with concerned bodies and ruled out incidents of unrest especially in prime tourism areas.
“We have mechanisms to ensure safety as we go for elections. We do not anticipate chaos in the magnitude of the one experienced in 2007/2008,” he said.
Narok County Governor Samuel ole Tunai reinforced the need for peaceful elections, saying they will not take chances in ensuring peace and stability.
He said Maasai Mara is a significant source of revenue for Narok County, accounting to almost 45 per cent of the annual revenue.
Johnathan Lenjir, a local at the greater Mara region, said there is a misconception that the tourism sector should be solely anchored on international visitors.
“These animals belong to us. Why can’t Kenyans also appreciate them and come to the Mara?” he said.
His statements were reinforced by hotel owners who challenged Kenyans to explore the beauty of what the country offers, and not go into panic anytime the flow of international tourists goes down.