Ten events shaping Kenya’s tourism calendar in 2020

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020 00:00 |
Kenya’s tourism calendar in 2020.

Tourism industry has been one of the most directly affected by the raging coronavirus crisis. Tourism sector remains in survival mode, and the outlook for recovery is uncertain as the pandemic continues to hit the sector. Even though the sector has been hit hard by the virus, players  are looking forward to a meaningful return to tourism activity in 2021. Below are events set to shape Kenya tourism sector performance next year.

1. Wildebeest migration

The annual Wildebeest Migration at the Masai Mara is a natural cycle that replenishes and renews the country’s place on the international tourism map.

Wildebeest Migration which is one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World” and also known as The World Cup of Wildlife attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists in a typical year.

The Masai Mara and the Serengeti National Park together form what no other reserve or park in Africa can!

Nowhere in the world is there a movement of animals as immense as the wildebeest migration.

Over two million animals migrate from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the greener pastures of the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya during July through to October.

The migration has to cross the Mara River, where crocodiles prey on them. This is one of the highlights as the animals try and cross the Mara River alive.

2. Hump whale migration

A lesser-known mammal migration happens at the same time at the coast. Every year, humpback whales journey into Kenya between July and August.

Unlike the well-documented wildebeests, nature lovers are only just beginning to understand the habits of these ocean giants.

Spanning up to 18 feet and weighing 40 tonnes, these gigantic mammals swim 4,000 of kilometres from Antarctica along the coasts of South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya and Somalia.

The small town of Watamu in Kilifi County has become the perfect spot for viewing humpbacks because they swim close to the shore and can even be seen from land.

3. Elephant naming

The first annual Magical Kenya Elephant Naming Festival is set to start in August 2021.

The event will go a long way in supporting tourism and wildlife conservation efforts in the country.

The festival is seen as having a potential to encourage more people to engage in conservation efforts, and also offer opportunities for partners and well-wishers to learn more about elephants, other wildlife and Kenya’s heritage.

During the Elephant naming ceremony, individuals will have a chance to adopt an elephant after contributing to conservation.

The foster parent (adopter) will then be given priority in choosing the first name of the elephant.

The second name will be a Maasai name, based on the animal’s profile, history, and role in the family, physical attributes like the state of tusks.

4. Magical Kenya travel expo

Held every October, this year’s event was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Generally, the event involves a three- day expo and attracts over 200 African exhibitors meet with over 150 global buyers from 25 of Kenya’s key source markets. 

Six thousand pre-scheduled meetings take place at the expo through an effective business matchmaking system, which drives business potential at the expo. 

This is achieved through three exclusive networking events, six market presentations offering the latest source market highlights and three focussed seminars with top industry professionals.

It offers an opportunity to access a gathering of East Africa’s tourism’ leaders, policymakers, leading tourism products, global buyers and media.

5. Maralal Camel Derby

An annual event held midyear just outside of Maralal town, the Camel race is Kenya’s best known and most prestigious, attracting both local and international competitors.

Flagged off by local dignitaries, the race begins with initial chaos as the camels break across the line. 

The less “professional” camel jockeys often lose control of their over-excited steeds, which often decide to run the race in the completely opposite direction. 

As the amateurs head off in whichever direction their camel chooses, the professionals break free and head for the course at breakneck speed.

Cheering supporters line the route, and the final stretch is always alive with excited spectators as the winners cross the line.

6. Lake Turkana Cultural Festival

The event takes place annually in Loiyangalani, a small town on the south-eastern coast of Lake Turkana.

The name means “a place of many trees” in the native Samburu tongue and is home to the El Molo, an almost extinct community, amongst other communities.

The three-day carnival is a celebration of the rich cultures of the El Molo, Samburu, Gabbra, Rendile, Watta, Dasannach and the Turkana all who live around the Jade Sea.

7. Wildlife safaris

Millions of international tourists visit the country all year round for adventure tours or expeditions into the wilds of Kenya, mainly to see the big five animals namely, Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion and Leopard in their different game reserves, conservancies and or game parks, with no hunting involved.

Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) has divided the safaris into different circuit groups and destinations that are in the same region for ease of marketing.

These circuits include Nairobi, Central, South and North Rift, Coastline, Eastern as well as the Western circuit.

8. Beach tourism

For years, beach tourism has been a mainstay of Kenya’s tourism sector. The Kenyan coast teems with local and international tourists who converge along the coastline to sample scenic beaches like Nyali close to Mombasa, or Diani  where they participate in water sports like scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, windsurfing, kite surfing, snorkelling safaris and jet skiing if only to unwind in the sun.

9. Business tourism

Kenya’s meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions (MICE) tourism has grown over the past few years to become a key revenue contributor in the tourism industry.

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data indicates that the number of international conferences and delegates have been on the upward trend, indicating for instance, that it grew by 6.8 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively in 2018.

To tap into this opportunity, the government last year formed the National Convention Bureau to tap into the high-value meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) sector to grow revenues into the destination.

Kenya’s conference tourism is expected to go a notch higher with a number of conference bids the country is placing to host if, as expected, Covid-19 vaccine deployment gives global economy a lift next year.

10. Signature experience

Magical Kenya Signature Experiences are export-ready visitor experiences that respond to travellers’ desires to expose themselves beyond the mainstream tourist activities.

It is one of key milestone for Kenya Tourism Board in the transformation of tourism products and experiences to cater for the diverse needs of the clientele.

It was initiated to ensure that tourism gems were identified so that they are evaluated, showcased and acknowledge for the role they play in promoting Kenya’s tourism to the world.

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