Apart from the usual military activities held in Nanyuki, the bustling town is currently emerging as one of Kenya's best holiday destinations.
The town, situated on the backdrop of Mt Kenya, has attracted myriads of holiday homes due to an increased population and economic growth.
Nanyuki is earmarking Laikipia County as a world tourist destination with a majority of locals converting their properties into holiday homes to offer hospitality services.
Governor Ndiritu Muriithi, in an interview with the Nation, said the emergence of the holiday homes has been attributed to the region’s steady economic growth.
Mr Muriithi attributes the growth to the revival of the passenger train trips along the Nairobi-Nanyuki railway line, efficient air travel, military presence and various firms that are setting base.
On Mt Kenya slopes
"Nanyuki is located on the slopes of Mt Kenya and this ideally markets it as a holiday destination. We have a rich and fine culture which is a source of competitive advantage for us in terms of tourism," he said.
The county government, he said, has supported holiday home owners by ensuring provision of reliable water, boosting security and rehabilitation of roads.
"Well, holiday homes is not a very well understood concept because it is relatively new but we are continuing to work with stakeholders in that sector to see how we can help them as we endeavour to build a premium tourism product in Laikipia," the governor says.
For instance, the Nanyuki airstrip's runway is being expanded to accommodate larger aircraft with the aim of lowering the cost of air travel.
Affordable air travel
In 2019, a local airline — Let's Fly Aviation — introduced four flights daily between Nairobi's Wilson Airport and the Nyahururu-Nanyuki routes.
Let’s Fly Aviation is banking on growing tourism numbers in the county as well as assisting business persons who want to transact business in Nairobi and return to Nanyuki or Nyahururu on the same day and vice-versa.
“We want to plug the gap in air travel by introducing a cheaper, reliable alternative for people who cannot afford chartered flights but in need of a cheaper, convenient but still fast alternative,” the airline's Operations Manager, Mr Allan Mwangi, says.
The firm started off with a 14-seater Caravan but aims at introducing a 30-seater Dash soon.
The airline is riding on the global reputation of Nanyuki town as a travel and holiday destination to establish and expand air travel business. The company aims at establishing a flying school in Nanyuki as it seeks to decentralise operations from Nairobi.
Laikipia is set to provide a wide customer base for airline services from tourists, government officials, NGOs, bankers and private business people who are always time-constrained on the busy Nairobi-Nanyuki highway.
Road travel between Nanyuki and Nairobi takes at least three hours one way. The guarantee of return flights makes travel even more convenient. The airline opened booking offices in Nanyuki and Nyahururu with six employees to run them.
Air travel along the route had been derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic but it is expected to resume soon.
Several new hospitality establishments have upped the stake for the growth of the county as a tourism destination.
High-end luxury hotels firm Elewana has added Loisaba Lodo Springs as its 15th establishment in its portfolio, located within the 57,000-acre Loisaba Conservancy.
Other key investments in Laikipia’s tourism landscape include a Sh1 billion hotel coming up on a 200-acre piece of land at Ilngwesi Group Ranch in Laikipia North and a new 48-room hotel coming up in Nyahururu town.
According to Laikipia County Statistical Abstract 2020 report, the number of hotels in the county increased from 40 in 2018 to 103 in 2019 and the bed capacity rose from 1,133 to 1,982 during the same period.
Demand for land
Infrastructural upgrade has also led to a near-craze sub-division of land and a flurry of property sales as real estate firms pitch tent seeking to satisfy the growing demand to own a house.
Governor Muriithi hopes to propel the gross county product (GCP) from Sh100 billion to Sh400 billion.
"In the financial year 2013/2014, the gross county product stood at Sh38 billion. Right now, it stands at Sh100 billion but our immediate ambition is to grow that to Sh400 billion," he says.
His administration aims to spur the economy through enterprise development, agricultural production, manufacturing and processing, mining, electricity reticulation and streamlining service delivery.