The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) has turned focus on marketing hidden treasures of the country as it eyes to improve earnings.
To open up new areas, the board has set up a team to bring together players operating little known destinations from both the public and private sector.
KTB said their target is to hit 4.5 million bed nights by June, from an estimated 3.9 million in 2018.
KTB chief executive Betty Radier said they have established a business development unit, which is expected to conclude the exercise of enumerating and registering the sites across the country ahead of a deadline set in June.
“We are committed to expand areas that have previously not been showcased as well as those that require to be transformed into top travel experiences,” she said. Radier pointed out that conclusion of the exercise will give the board an edge in marketing the areas and help the country generate extra income.
As a way of creating awareness, the board visited some of the sites in the lake region tourism circuit in a bid to identify their niche segments and offer advice on provision of affordable packages and experiences that meet the needs of potential local travellers.
Some of the sites visited include Ndere Island, Thimlich Ohinga, E’l Molo Crocodile Park, Simbi Nyaima, Got Kweru and gold mining sites in Migori County.
“To harness domestic tourism potential, more efforts are required to locally create more awareness about our tourist destinations,” she said.
The State corporation is working with other stakeholders including Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) and the county governments in harnessing domestic tourism potential.
The KTB boss said the country is blessed with many destinations that most Kenyans can visit, including little known lakes, national museums and wild animals, among others.
The curator in-charge of Thimlich Ohinga Kelvin Somoire said the cultural heritage is experiencing low traffic despite being awarded the world heritage status by UNESCO last year.
Mr Somoire said the stone-walled fortress thought to have been used by ancient inhabitants in the area to guard against attacks and protect their livestock is only visited by an average of 20 people per month.
While this is a better performance compared to the days before the UNESCO recognised the site, much more needs to be done to ensure Kenyans experience and learn the Luo community history, he said.
The seventh site to have been placed under UNESCO in Kenya is found in Nyatike sub-county and said to have been built in the 16th century.
Residents of crater Lake Simbi Nyaima in Kendu Bay also expressed disappointment over the low visits by tourists to the site whose formation the locals believed was a result of the villagers’ greed and arrogance.
The Luo attach great importance to the site because of the legendary story which states that heavy storm swept the whole village which occupied the space after the villagers refused to assist an old woman in need of shelter and food.
“She was forced to leave the scene with one lady and her children after she sympathised with her and gave her food and a warm bath,” narrated Joel Okeyo, a resident.
Geologists, however, say the crater lake formed about six centuries ago following earthquakes accompanied by volcanic eruptions.
Radier indicated that the board will conduct a familiarisation tour of other regions to shore up their stakes and improve tourism performance in the country. According to the 2018 Tourism Sector Performance report by Tourism Research Institute, domestic bed nights for the year were estimated at 3.9 million which was 9pc rise.