Chinese tourists have fallen in love with Maasai Mara

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BY KIPCHUMBA KEMEI
newsdesk@reporter.co.ke
In the last three years Chinese broadcaster CCTV has played a big role in marketing Kenya as a preferred tourist destination in China and tothe world.
It has since 2013 few years after it entered the country market been in Masai Mara giving live coverage when wildebeests and zebras cross the Mara River from Serengeti plain in Tanzania into the national reserve to kick off the annual tourism peak season, boosting arrivals.
It is the first time in the history of Kenya that a TV station has gone out of its way including suspending commercial advertisements to cover the crossings.
“Whenever wildebeests and zebras are about to cross, it has always camped along the river patiently waiting for them to cross. It has boosted arrivals from China, the whole of Asia and the whole world,” says John Kioko, the manager, Mara Sarova Game Camp.
He adds that the impact of the coverage that begins with the first crossing until the last one will continue for many years, lamenting that local stations have not done what CCTV has done and continues to do.
“What CCTV is doing is patriotism to its audience, China and to Kenya. Local stations including Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) that is being funded by tax payers have failed to do that,” he says.
Kioko adds that the number of Chinese tourists visiting the Mara has in the last three years continued to swell, surpassing the country’s traditional markets of Europe and US.
Thomas Were, the general manager, Ashnil Hotels Ltd says the surge in arrivals of tourists from China is because of continued coverage by the its broadcaster, adding that it has nudged tourists from that country to be in the Mara whenever crossings start.
“Other international TV stations that set bases in Nairobi long before CCTV arrived have not seen it fit to cover the migration even after being named the eighth wonder of the world. That is why arrivals from China and other parts of Asia have overtaken those from other markets,” he adds.
Were whose facility Ashnil Mara has been full since the season begun late in June, three quarters Chinese, says in the last three years, investment in the hotel industry by Chinese business community has grown rapidly.
In August 2003 as the migration was still on, CCTV management invited President Uhuru Kenyatta to the Mara Serena Lodge where he outlined the importance of China to the country’s economy and hailed its tourists for visiting the country in large numbers.
Apart from the Chinese broadcaster, Cable News Network (CNN), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and a Japanese news agency, Shinbum were present during this year’s migration that ended two weeks ago.
When the migration was named the eighth wonder of the world in 2006, American network, America Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)was at Mara’s Governor’s Camp carrying out live interviews and giving live coverage of the crossing along the banks of the Mara River.
Ben Kipeno, the secretary, Mara Managers Forum applauds CCTV and other TV channels that have been highlighting the migration, saying that before travel advisories by the country’s traditional markets to its citizens against making non essential travels because of terrorism were lifted, tourists from China and other countries continued to visit the reserve.
“Chinese ignored terror threats and continued to visit the Mara. Most hotels remained opened because of the arrivals. All that is because of positive publicity by CCTV,” he says.

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