As Kenya prepares to host the World Rally Championship in Nakuru next month, hospitality players in the region are planning how to make the most of the event, which is expected to attract thousands of visitors.
The rally will be held in the county for the third consecutive time between June 22 and 25 and is expected to inject over Sh6 billion into the economy.
“The international event is a big boost for local businesses, especially the tourism sector,” said Mr Njuguna Kamau, Director of 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 said the county is fully prepared to host the event.
“The WRC is part of our heritage and we are ready to deliver an unforgettable Safari Rally this year. The event will play a key role in promoting domestic tourism, especially at a time when the country is recovering from the economic shocks of the Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s event will also be historic 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 the visitor experience along all rally routes,” she added.
Last year, former president Uhuru Kenyatta signed an agreement to keep the event on the WRC calendar until 2026.
Mrs Kihika applauded the rally organizers for choosing the spectator stages which she said would help showcase the county’s spectacular locations and allow visitors to experience Naivasha’s hospitality.
She urged business operators to take advantage of the event and offer attractive packages that will encourage visitors to tour various attractions in the county.
Earlier this week, Tourism Executive Director Stephen Kuria met with the rally organizers and other stakeholders at a hotel in Naivasha.
“This will be a big win for our hotels and the tourism sector as a whole. We are working closely with the Department of Transport to ensure that traffic on the rally routes will be better managed than last year,” Mr Kuria said.
“As a county, we plan to ensure that we position Nakuru as a tourism destination in the region. We want to give a Kenyan flavor to this international event,” he added.
A boon in the tourism and hospitality sector
Nakuru County Tourism Association chairman David Mwangi said: “Our tourism and hospitality sector will gain a lot from the WRC. Most of our three and four star hotels in Naivasha and along the main sections of the rally course will benefit greatly.”
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 that will benefit from the event are oil, food and beverage and entertainment retailers, as well as grocers. Homeowners with spare rooms are also expected to profit from the windfall during the event.
“Last year was like a lesson. We learned a lot after failing to accommodate the large number of visitors flocking to Naivasha. This time we are preparing adequately,” said Mary Wambui, a local hotel owner.
Famous Kenyan Safari Rally drivers such as Carl Tundo and Pauline Shegu 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 retained that name until 1974 when it became the Kenya Safari Rally. It then evolved into the current modern event.