, NAROK, Kenya, Aug 3 — President Uhuru Kenyatta may very well have dethroned the lion as the king of the jungle when he visited the Maasai Mara on Saturday.
All the camera flashes President Kenyatta’s game drive ellicited proved too much for a lion who went scampering for safety leaving his bride surrounded by the convoy of cars the head of state left in his wake.
President Kenyatta revelled in the attention waving to tourists from the back of a Land Rover in a scene reminiscent of the lap of honour he does on the back of his ceremonial Land Rover following state ceremonies.
Unlike ordinary days when tourists would focus their cameras on the lions, Saturday was different as they were seen clicking away at the president who was on a mission to see the country attract at least five million tourists annually.
China, the President said, could help the government meet that target in one fell swoop, “If just one percent of the Chinese population vistit Kenya we would have fulfilled that promise and so it’s one of the market’s we are aggressively pursuing.”
And in order to draw those numbers in President Kenyatta channelled Deputy President William Ruto’s inauguration speech saying they will diversify Kenya’s product offering to include archaeological sites and conference tourism.
In that pursuit the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers (KAHC) has called on President Kenyatta’s government not to forget the traditional products that are the safari and the beach.
“There is a water problem at the coast, every time it rains the Maasai Mara becomes impassable and don’t get me started on the garbagge problem,” KAHC Chairman J.S. Vohra lamented to Capital FM News.
The head of state is however adamant that by diversifying the tourist product, pressure would be taken off the better known attractions.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie went a step further and bounced the ball back in KAHC’s court challenging the hoteliers to use some of their profits in refurbishing their properties in order to compete with those newly constructed in competing destinations such as Zanzibar.
Vohra tossed the ball back urging the government to put its money where its mouth is, “tourism is one of the top earners in this country but we only get a fraction of what we get back in. A case in point being the reduction of the tourism allocation in this year’s budget.”
The Association however remains hopeful that the former Kenya Tourism Board chairman’s commitment to the tourism industry goes deeper than a photo opportunity.