Tourism players prepare to reap from Safari Rally

Sebastian Ogier navigated by Benjamin Veillas in a Toyota Yaris compete at the Hells Gate stage in Naivasha

Sebastian Ogier navigated by Benjamin Veillas in a Toyota Yaris compete at the Hells Gate stage in Naivasha on June 26, 2022, during the World Rally Championships Safari Rally.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

As Kenya gears up to host the World Rally Championship in Nakuru next month, hospitality industry players in the region are planning on how to reap maximum benefit from the event expected to attract thousands of visitors.

The rally will be hosted in the county for a third time in a row between June 22 and 25 and is expected to pump over Sh6 billion into the economy.

“The international event is a big boost to local businesses, especially for the tourism sector,” said Mr Njuguna Kamau, a director at the East African Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “We expect a windfall of at least Sh6 billion by the end of the event,” said Mr Njuguna.

Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika has said the county is fully prepared to host the event.

“The WRC is part of our heritage and we are ready to hold a memorable Safari Rally this year. The event will play a key role in boosting domestic tourism, more so at a time when the country is recovering from the economic aftershocks of the Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s event will also be historical as it marks 70 years since the WRC was first launched in the country,” said Ms Kihika.

“My administration will continue to upgrade the necessary infrastructure to enhance visitors’ experience along all the rally routes,” she added.

Last year, former President Uhuru Kenyatta signed a pact to keep the event in the WRC calendar until 2026.

Ms Kihika hailed the rally organisers for the selection of spectator stages, which she says will help showcase the county’s spectacular sites and allow visitors to sample Naivasha’s hospitality.

She urged business operators to capitalise on the event and come up with attractive packages that will encourage visitors to tour various attractions in the county. 

Early this week, Tourism executive Stephen Kuria met with the rally organisers and other stakeholders at a Naivasha hotel.

“This will be a big win for our hotels and the tourism sector at large. We are working closely with the Ministry of Transport to ensure traffic on the rally routes will be managed better than last year,” said Mr Kuria.

“As a county, we plan to ensure we position Nakuru as a tourism destination in the region. We want to give a Kenyan flavour to this international event,” he added.

Tourism, hospitality sectors boon

Nakuru County Tourism Association Chairman David Mwangi said: “Our tourism and hospitality sectors will greatly reap from the WRC. Most of our three- and four-star hotels in Naivasha and along the main sections of the rallying circuit will greatly benefit.”

Hotels such as Enashipai Resort and Spa, Sawela Lodge, Naivasha Kongoni Lodge, Lake Naivasha Resort and Lake Naivasha Panorama Park are preparing to host visitors during the event.

Other businesses set to benefit from the event are dealers in petroleum, food and beverages and entertainment joints, and hawkers. Homeowners with spare rooms are also expected to cash in on the windfall during the event.

“Last year was like a tutorial. We learnt a lot after failing to accommodate the high number of visitors trooping to Naivasha. This time, we are preparing adequately,” said Mary Wambui, a local hotel owner.

Renowned Kenyan Safari Rally drivers like Carl Tundo and Pauline Sheghu will take part in this year’s event.

The Safari Rally was first held in 1953 as the East African Coronation Safari in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1960 it was renamed the East African Safari Rally and kept that name until 1974 when it became the Kenya Safari Rally. It then evolved into the current modern-day event.