Hoteliers, tour guides reap big as visitors flock to Mara

Wednesday, January 4th, 2023 03:00 | By
Elephants in Maasai Mara. PHOTO/Courtesy

There was impressive booking in the Masai Mara National Reserve during the just concluded festive season after over three-years of Covid-19 pandemic.

A spot-check at the main entrance at the Sekenani Main Gate revealed long queues of tour vans ferrying hundreds of holiday makers to the reserve as they wait clearance from the Kenya Airports Parking Services (KAPS LTD) which collects park fees on behalf of the Narok County government.

Despite a big chunk of the visitors being domestic tourists, tour operators, guides and drivers say they are happy that three years after the pandemic, the business has now returned to normal as the foreign market is roaring back.

East Africa Tour Drivers and Guides Association Secretary Felix Migoya said all the destinations he went to during the festive season and after, hotels are booked to 100 percent capacity.

“For example, I was at Sentirm Mara Camp during the ushering in of the new year 2023, both locals and international tourist alike were booked in the camp even beyond the new year,” he said in a phone interview.

Chinese market

“We are now looking forward to the Chinese market by February, which has been missing due to the outbreak of the pandemic in that country in 2019 and is expected to rejuvenate the tourism sector more,” Migoya added.  When Business Hub visited the Sekenani Gate on January 2, a day after new year, there was a lot of traffic extending to one kilometre with tour guides and Maasai women selling beadwork making booming business.

Maasai merchants at the Mara, for instance, reported that business is now booming following months of little to no business. “This is the first time after Covid-19, we are experiencing large numbers of tourists to the Maasai Mara, and we are really selling a lot of our beadwork wares,” said Nayiarei Noonkipa, who sells beads at the Sekenani Gate.

Maasai mara Chief Park Warden Stephen Minis said they are handling between 200 and 300 vehicles a day at the five Maasai Mara National Reserve entrances of Oloololo, Musiara, Talek, Sikinani and Oloolaimutia, translating into tens of hundreds of visitors into the reserve.

More visitors are opting for the tented camps in the 16 conservancies outside the county government’s protected area of the Mara reserve.

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