UK tourists eye Mara after ‘Brexit’ vote as bookings rise
Hundreds of local and international tourists are expected to brave the rains and troop to Masai Mara Game Reserve for Christmas and New Year holidays. Hoteliers say final reparations for the festive season are complete.
They spoke as Britons, who flock to the games reserve annually from November, the start of winter, stayed away to vote in last week’s UK general election. Uncertainty of the elections dubbed “Brexit poll” has also helped to keep them off tourist resorts.
“We have recalled most of our workers whom we sent on leave after the end of the peak season to help cater for them,” says Theophilus Shumwe, the manager of the exclusive Tipilikwani Camp.
He told TravelWise that his establishment, among many others, has slashed rates by almost a half this festive season, adding that the package favours local tourists.
“Kenyans are hard up but we are encouraging more domestic tourists to come and sample what we offer by offering pocket friendly packages,” he said.
Mara has lately been in the news following the calving of two dotted zebras and a cheetah. One of the zebras has since crossed Sand River into the sprawling Serengeti Park in Tanzania.
Operators say Serengeti is competing with the Mara for international tourists. “Some tourists are keen to visit Tanzania and Zanzibar. Most of hotels in Serengeti are doing brisk business,” says Patrick Wanjohi, GM at Into Africa Eco Travel.
Wanjohi says some tourists who had booked tours in South Africa and Botswana are now coming to East Africa because of insecurity associated with xenophobic attacks in October.
“SA is still not safe. In Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, drought is killing wild animals including elephants in the parks,” he said.
In Narok town, the gateway to the Mara, hotels are ready for visitors expected to lodge in their facilities and view game early in the mornings.
“Meat prices have gone up, but we have ordered for goats to feed our visitors. We are also employing more workers to cope with arrivals,” says Henry Nyaema, proprietor, MaraLink Hotel.
Narok county commissioner Samuel Kimiti says security in Narok town and the Mara has been stepped up, adding that police have been deployed to all lodges and camps in the reserve. “We are not leaving anything to chance,” he said.