Harriet James\u00a0@People DailyKE \u201cIt\u2019s quite far, walk on a little further,\u201d an aged woman told us as she rushed effortless down the sloppy hill,\u00a0 when we asked about how far it was to the top.\u00a0 My fellow revellers and I had been hiking Maragoli hills in Vihiga county for about 30 minutes and could not stop whining about fatigue. It felt like we had been been walking for two days! The experience left me wondering how people, such as the aged woman living in hilly areas got the strength to climb up and down such a hill and still remain strong. Some were even carrying up to 20 litres of water on their backs and still smiled at passersby as they trailed the rocky terrains to their homes.\u00a0 However, the terrain was not as challenging as some of the hikes that I have been to, such as Mount Ololokwe in Samburu or even Mount Longonot in Naivasha, which were so steep that if your shoes didn\u2019t have proper grip, you would easily fall. We had woken up at 5 o\u2019clock in the morning to go for this hike, which was organised by Ciala resort in Kisumu county as one of the activities that they have designed for the guests who fancy such adventures. The top of the hill gives you sweeping views of Lake Victoria and Kisumu city. Going down was easier and faster before we were welcomed to a bush brunch served at the foot of the hill, before we headed back to our hotel. The hike, among other site visits early this month was courtesy of Jambo Jet\u2019s campaign dubbed, \u201cNow Travel Ready\u201d to showcase what the various destinations in the routes they ply have to offer and also to give travellers the confidence to travel by air again, after the sector was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. \u201cWe launched the campaign because people are still not very comfortable with travel, but we hope that Kenyans will be inspired to travel and in turn boost local tourism,\u201d says Jambojet acting managing director, Karanja Ndegwa. Local tourists hiking Kit Mikayi.\u00a0 Photo\/PD\/HARRIET JAMES The low-cost carrier recently launched its inaugural flight from Mombasa to Kisumu and Eldoret further opening up the city to not just being an economic, but a tourism hub. For a long time, Kisumu has been known as a Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE)\u00a0 destination where corporates, non-government organisations as well as government events take place. With an international airport and being the headquarter of the lake basin region has also added to this fact.\u00a0 The planned 267 kilometre Naivasha-Kisumu railway, which has been deferred, would have further opened up the city. Even as this is ongoing, most of the players want to attract leisure travellers to the region that they feel has a lot to offer. \u201cKisumu has everything else to compete with other destinations. In a few years, there are special projects. such as the construction of the port as well as the afrocities conference in 2012, which will position the lakeside city on the map,\u201d says Johannes Odhiambo, Ciala resort general manager.\u00a0 Poor marketing from tour companies who still dont see the region as a leisure destination has been blamed for the low numbers of leisure tourists. \u201cWe are working hard with various stakeholders in the industry to change this attitude,\u201d added Odhiambo. According to a 2019 Ministry of Tourism reports, Global visits to Kenya being came to out of the 2,048,334 global visits in kenya last year, 1,423,971 came to Nairobi, 128,222 to Mombasa. 27,447 tourists entered other airports, including kisumu international airport. Also lack of infrastructure like proper roads to the attractions has also been attributed to the poor performance of the sector in the region. The concentration of hotels for business travelers, which outdo leisure ones has attracted more of business than leisure travelers. The ministry of tourism, culture and sports in kisumu is working hand in hand with the Kenya Tourism Board and the Ministry of Tourism to open up the region. The industry players are banking on upcoming events such as\u00a0 the Afro cities conference next year which bring about governors, mayors, urban planners, ministers of tourism and culture, and heads of states to discuss how to raise the quality of life in urban areas, which they hope will market thecity further. \u2018I\u00a0 have been going to knock on the doors of airlines and meeting their CEOs and marketing our potential to them,\u2019 says Tourism County Executive Secretary (CES), Sports and Culture Kisumu County, Achie Alai. Open up the country Air Kenya for example, flies from Kisumu to the mara every day. Safarilink too opened up Wilson airport to kisumu due to trafic from the Jomo Kenyatta Intenational Airport. The county also set up \u2018The spirit of Kisumu\u2019 an online platform that markets the city as a tourist destination where they show off the fashion, cuisines, cultures and attractions from the region.. Each ministry is also working together to ensure the city is clean like the ministry of environment works to make the lake is clean Achie also attended a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) conference last year and presented papers to have Kit Mikayi, a rock formation, a tor, around 120 m high with great history from the Luo community recognised as a heritage site. Tourism players in the county also began an initiative in 2018 dubbed, \u2018We Western Kenya\u2019 to diversify the market and also attract leisure travellers. "We are also working on having an association to give a face to this region. The city has many tourist attractions that can appeal to this market if they are marketed well,\u201d explains Shanawaz Basheer, the Grand Royal Swiss hotel general manager. The intituative brings together all the 14 counties in the western region. They have a website, which shows people where to find facilities or attractions like airports, banking facilities orr hospitals. With more focus being placed on domestic tourism, county tourism ministers are ensuring that more is done to attract tourists to their counties. Achie, who is also the chairperson of the council of the county governments\u2019 tourism ministers says the recognition that domestic tourism will take centre stage during this season has driven them to come up with incentives to ensure flights and accommodations are cheaper to attract Kenyans.