Kenya cuts prices to lure tourists


Beach and safari holidays in Kenya are being offered at prices reduced by up to 50 per cent in a bid to restore confidence in the east African country.

Chief executive of the African Travel and Tourism Association, Nigel Vere Nicoll, told Times Online: “There are going to be a lot of offers around Kenya over the next four months in order to kick start the huge recovery plan. We are running into the low season so people can expect to see added extras such as free balloon trips to attract the market back.”

Hoteliers and tourism workers hope that the announcement this weekend of a power sharing deal between its rival leaders, Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki, will bring a peaceful resolution to the political turmoil that has blighted Kenya in recent weeks.

At the height of the violence the Foreign and Commmonwealth Office (FCO) adjusted its travel advice for Kenya to warn Britons against non-essential travel to the country.

The travel ban had a devastating effect on Kenya’s tourism, and although the advice has now been lifted, numbers are still down. The current FCO advice warns Britons against visiting some parts of Mombasa and advises visitors to avoid public gatherings and demonstrations.

“Visitor numbers dropped 90 per cent in January and February because of the troubles and it will take time to get back to last year’s tourism figures when we had one million visitors – a record for us,” says Vere Nicoll.

He added: “There hasn’t been one tourist injured during the troubles but the Foreign Office travel advice and media reports have damaged Kenya’s image.”

Chris Breen, managing director of Wildlife Worldwide, a tour operator that sells holidays to Kenya, told Times Online: “Camps employing countless local staff and thus supporting local economies have been badly hit. The agreement is just the news we’ve been hoping for. Kenya is still East Africa’s premier wildlife tourism destination and there are now many discounts on airfares, accommodation and safaris to tempt visitors back.”

Businesses and workers that rely on Kenya in tourism will have a tough few months to weather because further to the overall decline in tourism, spring is traditionally quiet. According to the Kenya Tourist Board the peak season for Kenya tourism is between January and March and June to October, during the wildebeest migration in the Mara.

But according to the organisation, now is still a good time to visit. A spokesman told Times Online: “The safari parks are quite quiet. There is a huge abundance of animals not only in the Mara, but also the northern National Parks such as Samburu, Meru and Laikipia. May can be wet but rain is usually in short sharp bursts, surrounded by sunshine either side, therefore it never normally disrupts holidays.”

Although many tourists who visit Kenya use schedule airlines such as Kenya Airways, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, whose services have continued throughout the troubles, many holidaymakers book with larger tour operators who use charter flights.

A key moment for Kenya’s tourism revival will be the reinstatement of these charter flights. Currently, the Monarch Scheduled flight between Gatwick and Mombasa looks set to resume in early May, while Thomsonfly will not return to Kenya until mid July.

Holidays with companies such as Thomson and Cosmos will not resume until the charter flights are reinstated, but until then there are plenty of cut-price holidays to Kenya that use the scheduled airline services.

Here is a round up of some of the best deals:

WildFitness offers health and fitness holidays on the north coast of Kenya near Watamu. The holidays include activities such as swimming, yoga, dojo, walking, circuit training and boxing, as well as massage and healthy food. Current offers include discounts of up to 20 per cent on holidays such as the nine-day “kick start” break, priced at £1,764 per person, based on two people sharing, for departures on March 8 and April 5.

Aardvark Safaris is offering a 16-day trip to Kenya, at a cost of £3,753 per person, a saving of £708. The itinerary begins in Nairobi and includes a visit to a working ranch on the Laikipia plateau, which is overlooked by Mount Kenya, a flight south to the Masai Mara, for guided game drives and bush walks, and a further flight south to a lodge on the Nguruman Escarpment, overlooking the Great Rift Valley and the Shompole Mountain. The price is valid until July 1.

Wildlife Worldwide is offering a £170 discount on bookings confirmed by March 31 on its 10-day small group Highlights of Kenya tour for travel in May 2008. The tour costs £1,525 per person and includes Samburu National Reserve, the volcanic ranges of the Aberdare National Park, Lake Nakuru and the Masai Mara. Accommodation includes a safari lodge in the Aberdares in a forest glade with a nearby floodlit waterhole featuring an underground viewing platform. The price includes scheduled flights, transfers, hotel and safari lodge accommodation with most meals, and expert guiding and wildlife viewing.

Thomson is offering seven nights at the Baobab in Diani Beach on an all inclusive basis for £1,170 per person, a saving of £100 per person. The trip departs on July 30 from London Gatwick. The price includes return flights, resort transfers and accommodation at the four star hotel. For departures on September 8 from Gatwick the price is £1,015 per person.

On the Go Tours is offering an 11-day camping safari from £430. The price includes all meals, camping equipment, transfers, a three-man crew and entrance fees, and the trip takes in the Rift Valley lakes, Masai Mara and the Serengeti and Ngorongoro. Alternatively there’s the 15-day “Gorilla & Game Trek” from £375, which is also a camping trip and includes the Rift valley and Masai.

Mombasa Air Safari is offering two or three nights in the Masai Mara for £290 and £394 per person respectively. Clients fly from Mombasa to the park in a small turbo-prop aircraft and stay at the Heritage Mara Intrepids Camp. The price includes the domestic flight, taxes, park fees, meals, accommodation and game drives, based on two people sharing.

Dive Worldwide is offering a £120 saving per person on its 10-day South Kenya Explorer. The tour costs £1,099 per person if you book by March 31 for departures between March 1 and July 10 and August 22 and December 8. The price includes flights, accommodation at 30-bedroom The Sands at Nomads hotel with breakfast and a 10-boat dive package including tanks, weights and air. There are more than 32 dive sites and two wrecks within a 20-25 minute boat trip of the hotel.

The five star Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort at Bamburi Beach is offering a seven-night stay, departing Gatwick on May 12, for an all inclusive price of £642 per person including return flights, accommodation, meals and airport transfers, a discount of 27 per cent. Book through Cosmos Holidays

Africa Sky is offering a 50 per cent discount on accommodation at the four-star Flamboyant Beach Hotel. For departures between March 3 and July 10, it will cost £869 per person for six nights on a bed and breakfast basis, including flights from Heathrow with Kenya Airways, resort transfers, taxes and surcharges. The hotel has a large pool, tennis court and watersports. The price rises to £1,380 per person between July 11 and August 21.

Exodus is offering the eight-day “Classic Kenya Safari” for £1,403 per person. The holiday includes the lakes of the Rift Valley, the Masai Mara and the flamingos of Lake Nakuru. The price includes return international flights, travel by minibus, three nights luxury tented accommodation, two nights lodge accommodation and all food except two meals. Departures available January – December. The trip code is AYM.