- Hoteliers at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve have expressed optimism that the industry will bounce back following high bookings ahead of the wildebeest migration expected to start this week.
- The hotel managers are gaining confidence as a sizable number of international tourists have booked the lodges ahead of the migration of the wildebeest from Serengeti in Tanzania to the Mara in Kenya.
- Keekorok Lodge manager James ole Pere said several hotels have received bookings from international tourists and they are expecting “a magic number of 50 percent” bed occupancy by mid this month.
Hoteliers at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve have expressed optimism that the industry will bounce back following high bookings ahead of the wildebeest migration expected to start this week.
The hotel managers are gaining confidence as a sizable number of international tourists have booked the lodges ahead of the migration of the wildebeest from Serengeti in Tanzania to the Mara in Kenya.
Keekorok Lodge manager James ole Pere said several hotels have received bookings from international tourists and they are expecting “a magic number of 50 percent” bed occupancy by mid this month.
Mr Pere said some of the tour companies that have not been in operation for over one year like Pollmans, Somak and Rhino Safaris are back in business and are already taking their clients to Mara.
The firms handle organised tourists who come in big numbers using fleet of vehicles for long tour circuits in Kenya and across East Africa
Mr Pere said for the last one month, the Mara has received “unlikely customers” who don’t fall under the traditional markets including from countries in the Eastern Europe such as Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Iran.
“We are also receiving bookings from the traditional markets in Europe, America, France but we are yet to receive any from the Chinese and Far East markets,” he added
Speaking to Business Daily in Narok, Mr Pere said by Mid-June scheduled flights, like Safari link and Air Kenya, which operate in the Mara have started to increase frequencies to twice a day.
Mr Pere said international photographers are already streaming into Mara in preparation for the epic wildebeest migration.
High-end camps and lodges such as Elewana, Salas camp, Angama and Entumototo are already witnessing increased bed occupancy compared to the middle level camps.
A spot-check by Business Daily indicates the Maimahiu-Narok-Maasai Mara highway is increasingly becoming busy with the number of Land cruisers, which make stopovers in Narok town.
Hoteliers say the Covid-19 vaccine has given international tourists confidence to visit Kenya.
“Some tourists from European countries who have observed the Covid-19 requirements to Kenya have done bookings to come and watch the migration after many of them missed out last year,” said Joseph Kararei of Entumoto luxury camp.
Some of the Ministry of Health requirements are that from midnight 24 May 2021, all passengers/crew arriving from the UK must have a valid certificate for a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken no more than 96 hours before arrival in Kenya except children below five years of age.
All travelers – regardless of age, and even those only transiting Kenya – must carry evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 96 hours of flying that can be verified digitally through the Trusted Travel Initiative (TT) system and the PanaBios system. At this time, it appears that a test result is required even if a traveler has been vaccinated.
At the same time the Narok county government which is incharge of the Management of the reserve seem to be fixing roads, culvert bridges in anticipation of the high season.
However, Managers say 2020 was a tough year when lessons were learnt the hard way when hotels operated between zero to 15 percent bed occupancy rate for local tourists but thanked domestic tourists from Kenya who kept them afloat.
“Last year 2020 was one of the worst tourist’s seasons since 1958 when the Mara was declared a tourist destination,”
“Even after the resumption of international flights in August last year, several camps and leisure hotels are still closed due to little or no demand,” said Mr Pere who is the chairman of the
Mr Pere said the traditional January-March low season has this year been worsened by the pandemic which has reduced domestic tourism activities and cut-off more than 80 per cent of international arrivals.
Ministry of Tourism numbers show that the country has lost more than 50 percent of total annual tourism earnings due to the pandemic. The country had lost Ksh81.8 billion by July this year, compared to last year’s revenue of Ksh163.6 billion.