Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt

Posted on December 7th, 2010
Categories: News

I’ve just had a bad Kenya day. To be honest, I haven’t had one of these for a long time. Being the eternal optimist, I’m happy with our new roads, our new constitution, our new willingness to right the wrongs of our past; and our government now at work have all but banished my bad Kenya days. Hang on a minute I’ve just had one. I’d better explain myself.

My fellow columnist Steve Shelley, in one of his recent columns, talked of Kenya’s matatu culture, or more simply put, ‘me first’. We have a culture, dare I say it, in Kenya of ‘me first’. The world be damned, ‘me first’. There is no respect for our fellow human beings, no manners and no courtesy, just ‘me first’. While matutu’s might exemplify the ‘me first’ culture, it is not their exclusive domain.

In trying to understand why we are like we are, I go down the road of an impoverished nation with desperate citizens, which probably explains it – but of course we are not and never have been. Or is it that we all don’t see a future, so let’s go out and grab what we can? I’d say none of the above.

I’ve always said that Kenyans are far too nice and I think that this is the genesis of the ‘me first’ culture. In the beginning, we were too polite, so when someone or something pushed us aside, we gladly acquiesced, karibu sana, but that was yesterday. Today we are tired of being pushed around, so we are fighting back – hence a whole nation of ‘me first’.

I do go on

Tourism has made a massive comeback from the dark days of 2008, which is great news for the tourism industry and for the country – long may it last. Booking patterns have, with the global financial melt-down, changed dramatically. No one seems to book months in advance, as once was the norm. It’s all very last minute now, which might explain why various lodges and camps in the usually sold-out migration season in the Masai Mara were offering mouth-watering deals to local residents at short notice. But is it all as it appears, or do we now have too many lodges and camps and not enough capacity to fill them?

Just take a look at the news article on page six www.travelnewskenya.travel The Siana Conservancy has 24 lodges and camps situated in an area of roughly 8,000 acres – how that works out per tourist per acre to a mathematically challenged columnist I don’t know, but it does seem exceptionally crowded, doesn’t it?

The conservancy fee is in line with the other surrounding areas, including the Masai Mara – a mighty US$ 80.00 per day. The article also talks of 16 community rangers arbitrarily checking vehicles in the Conservancy to ensure payment – beggar’s belief. In my mind’s eye, I see tourist vehicles around a pride of lion – enter the ticket collector…

Friends from overseas asked me recently to price a holiday in Kenya – and to put it rather mildly I was blown away. Kenya has some of the best camps and lodges in the world without doubt; that these establishments see fit to charge astronomical rates and enjoy high occupancy rates is great.  Well done, value proposition sorted.

However, it is the not-so-great camps and lodges that don’t have very much to offer (but certainly know how to charge) that are giving Kenya an unfair reputation of being a rip-off destination.

How do we give our visitors a fair and unbiased system, upon which they can confidently make their choice of accommodation?

I really think we need a first-world hotel, lodge and camp grading system – not the dinosaur system we have in place at present. Where you get a star for an elevator, and so on. Maybe that’s the reason why we have no 5-star lodges and camps! I hate to say it, but South Africa has a great grading system that could be easily adapted here – no point our re-inventing the wheel.

Of to Oz for the holidays en famille. Would have loved to stay home – 24-hour flights in each direction not exactly my cup of tea. But great friends down under and a need to explore this wonderful world of ours is my excuse.

Happy Holidays