For the last 30 years of my working career, 85% of the time has been spent in the Tourism Industry both in/out of Kenya.
I joined Tourism in the early 1990s, and have worked with various organisations that include Windsor Hotels, which paved way for CCA (Conservation Corporation Africa), Heritage Hotels, Cheli & Peacock, Sanctuary Lodges and presently &Beyond.
For the last 25 years we have seen great, exciting times and gloom and despair in equal measure in the industry. We moved from the days where guests would demand to sleep anywhere as long as they were in the lodge. During the peak season all rooms on the lodge compound would be sold – these included managers’ houses. Over bookings was a very normal thing, in fact as a reservations Manager you would be considered “inefficient” if the lodge was not overbooked back then.
In the mid 1990s we saw a spring in the industry with a sudden change of business trends. But for Kenya it was the 1998 twin bombing of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam that was the turning point for the industry on the international front. We saw a complete downturn of business, the overbookings stopped, guests became more demanding, laws in Europe changed, more and more competition came up – the pressure started mounting. Security became a big issue and we saw numerous travel advisories issued against Kenya – this has not stopped. Security remains one major concern not for just the visitors but also for the local people. Apart from the above, internal political strife continued to dodge the nation contributing further to the slide in tourism. From a million tourist a year in the late 80s early 90s to a few thousands in the recent past.
Despite all the happenings and the rumbling, and this is what I like about Kenya, the country remained resilient. Every time a huddle presented itself the country quickly recollected itself and the industry joined forces and countered the challenge. I love Kenya because one of her greatest assets is the people, very resourceful and hardworking. Sadly until very late we didn’t see much of the government support come through to lend help to the industry players and business. I say this because a business that was delivering about Ksh.100B @ROE – 90 to a dollar a year was only allocated Ksh.100M for marketing. That was a paltry compared to competitions like South Africa. But despite all these hurdles the industry players continued to market the country at their own cost and remained positive throughout!
It is not until recently that we saw the worst crisis in the tourism sector when in 2013 the Westgate Mall was attacked by terrorists, and the knock on impact to tourism has been devastating. The first sector to be hit was of course tourism which went down by more than 30% in the last 3 years. Many companies have since closed shop, many people have lost their jobs. It has been estimated that over 50,000 jobs were lost both formerly and informally. Life will probably never be the same for so many Kenyans.
Tourism is an important foreign revenue stream – in fact after tea and coffee, tourism is usually the third foreign exchange earner to the Kenya economy. After traversing the globe, America, Europe, Australia, Canada and many parts of Africa – Kenya still remains home to me, it offers the kick of life – the resilience, the hope, the energy, the competition and the love of life. So I urge you to consider Kenya…
For those who can take the trouble to go down memory lane you will remember that Kenya is the mother of Safari in Africa, probably the world. A country of diversity, the beaches, the lowland, the highlands, the Great Rift Valley, the forests, the deserts name it, from North to South, from West to East. Beauty untold, unimagined, hospitality galore, A Nation rich with culture, a nation of a resilient people. For an Encompass Africa guest I promise him/her one thing – a bug, a bug that once he/she is bitten they will never forget Kenya. It becomes another home away from home, you will want to keep on coming. Kenya is a country that you can tailor make your safari based on whatever budget one has from the most luxury to the budget – but still get value for what one buys. When you come – we are assured of children going to school, putting a meal to the table, an enhanced social welfare of the people, the protection of that very wildlife and natural resource for posterity and a strong fight against poverty – we WELCOME YOU. Remember that Kenya is where it all began. – William Mbunjiro October 2015
The above photo represents what your visit can do – build a family, build a nation and grow a generation.
From left – to right standing Beledina Mbunjiro ( a journalist by training), Kevin Mbunjiro (in Catering college), Alfred Mbunjiro (Diploma in architecture) and Godwin Mbunjiro (just joined college to do Animal Health Science). Sitting from left to right William Mbunjiro (the writer), Bradley Williams Junior and Mama Winnie Mbunjiro.