The tanking international economy has led to a tourism downturn throughout the world, with the notable exception of Kenya, where safari operators are reporting brisk bookings following the November election of Barack Obama, whose father hailed from the town of Kogelo in the western part of the country.
“We’ve seen a 12 percent increase since November over the same period last year and our Web traffic is up 17 percent,” says Dennis Pinto of Micato Safaris. “Given the prevailing economic conditions, we can only attribute this to the Obama factor.” The Kenya Tourist Board also reports large increases in recent arrivals numbers.
This is a much-needed boost to a country which is still attempting to recover from the blow to tourism caused by riots sparked by a contested presidential election in late December 2007 and early January 2008.
I, for one, am getting on the bandwagon. An African Studies major taking Swahili classes, I first visited Kenya on a volunteer trip to build a school in 1985 (see vintage photo of me at right). In 2002, I returned on safari and took a side trip to visit the school I helped build (now grown into a complex of buildings housing students learning trades). Now, seven years later, I plan to return next summer, to take the temperature of the country for which I have developed a special affinity, this time with my children. Help plan my trip. Tell me about safari outfitters, volunteer opportunities, ecolodges, people making a difference, anything that will make my trip authentic and meaningful. And, oh yes, affordable.
I’m already brushing up on my rusty Swahili (Rosetta Stone to the rescue). Asante sana (many thanks).
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Photos: Above, by Erico Hiller; Below, Norie Quintos