Kenya forms part of the Eastern Africa countries. It borders Sudan to the northwest, Indian Ocean to the southeast, Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west and Ethiopia to the north. Kenya’s tourism is a valuable asset to the economy because it is the second largest source of foreign exchange earning.
The touristic attractions in Kenya encompass wildlife, marine parks and reserves; historical buildings and monuments; the Great Rift Valley; snow-capped mountains; sports; cultures as well as sandy beaches along Indian Ocean.
Conservation of natural resources forms the backbone of Kenyan tourism. Wildlife tourism accounts for almost 60 percent of total tourism revenue. Other tourism attractions such as sports tourism have lagged behind. Kenya has great runners who have dominated internationally the long distance races since time immemorial.
Kenya has a reputation of producing award winning marathoners and steeplechase runners such as Moses Kiptanui, Kipchoge Keino, Tecla Loroupe, Catherine Ndereba and Samuel Wanjiru. These runners have dominated in global championships such as the Olympics competition, International Amarture Athletics Federation (IAAF), London Marathon, New York Marathon and so on.
The reason given to the outstanding performance by Kenyan runners in long distance races is the location of the country within the tropics coupled with high altitude training areas. This has attracted athletes from other countries to come and train within the country. However, authorities such as Kenya Tourist Board have not taken immediate measures to tap this opportunity as sports tourism.
The tourism authorities should earmark the high altitude areas used by local long distance athletes for sports facility development. The current facilities cannot adequately host international runners. Sports facilities should be fitted with state-of-the-art truck and field equipments; operated by properly trained management and meet proper dietary needs for athletes.
Kenya recieves hordes of international tourists attracted by the wildlife parks and reserves. There are 56 national parks and reserves in Kenya. The parks are remotely located. Moreover, the cultures of people living near these parks and reserves are rich and not eroded; very little has been done to incoporate them into the tourism circuits.
Kenya’s coastal towns of Mombasa and Lamu have cultural sites of Mijikenda tribe called the Kaya Shrines. The cultural sites spread throughout the coastal region. These coastal towns are famously known for their marine life. Other similar scenerios are the pastoral community of the Maasai living near the famous Maasai Mara National Reserve and the Nchuri Njeke Cultural Council of the Ameru tribe found near the Meru National Park.
Making cultural tourism vibrant increases opportunities for tourists to spend more within the country. Furthermore, authorities running tourism activities should not assume that all tourists are merely attracted to wildlife parks and reserves. Tourist trends have shown that they are increasingly willing to stay longer within the country than before.
Take for instance, in 1985 the average tourist length of stay was arround 7 days but in 2000 it increased up to 13 days.The local people should be given an opportunity to showcase their cuisines, ceremonial rites, traditional knowledge, cultural dress codes et cetera.
In the 1990s, there were a number of cases reported of international tourists murdered within country. This hit the international scene causing the rate of international tourists visiting the country to decline. This meant that there was a security lapse for the tourists. The situation was worsened by the occcurence of violence after the controversial presidential election held in December, 2007.
This caused a decline in the number of tourists arriving in the country in 2008 by almost half, from over 273,000 in 2007. Conference tourism dropped by 87.4 percent compared to the figures of 2007. In addition to this, several countries issued travel advisories to tourists wishing to visit the country. This shows that the security guarantee for tourists is paramount.
A way of ensuring tourists feel save, and deploy a special arm of the police force is called tourist police. This arm of police should be dedicated to ensuring that tourists are free of threats such as terrorism, serial killers or thuggery. This means that they should receive special training to suit the hospitality industry. However, Kenya has already shown signs towards this direction by initiating the diplomatic police.
The diplomatic police mainly secure areas receiving international conference guests. One of the sites heavily guarded by diplomatic police is Gigiri, which is the international headquarters of United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
The diplomatic police have been successful in discharging duties since the international conference visitors have reported no major cases of insecurity. Tourist police would serve to secure Kenya’s coastal border towns of Lamu facing threats from Al shabaab Movement terorist gang from Somalia.
Kenya as a tourist destination rivals even developed countries. However, its marketting tools are weaker than those of developed countries are. For instance, developed countries have visual appealing, content rich and user-friendly tourism marketing online tools, which call for developing countries like Kenya to dedicate more investments to win more international tourists.