Tourism is a key driver of the economy and has been among top foreign exchange earners for decades. However, the emergence of Covid-19 in March 2020 has shrunk the industry. Kenya has a number of tourist products, among them - agro-tourism - that have the potential to attract both domestic and international tourists. Yet, the country has overly relied on its traditional products; the African safari and beach destinations.
Kenya exports quality products, including horticulture, coffee, tea, meat and leather products. This sector has the potential of attracting tourists who may wish to see the farms, plantations and ranches from which the products they love come from.
Kericho County is located in the highlands west of the Kenyan Rift Valley with a population of 901,800 and an area of 2,11km2. The county is home to the Kipsigis sub-tribe of the Kalenjin tribe. Its climate has made the county the leading tea producing region in the country and home to the best Kenyan tea, which is renowned worldwide for its taste. The county has a number of learning institutions, among them, the University of Kabianga. Agro-tourism involves agricultural activities and processes that bring visitors to farms, plantations and even ranches. This type of tourism gives tourists an opportunity to see different farm set ups, how different farm goods are produced and even experience the processing. This form of tourism gives tourists a chance to interact with farmers and even take up the activity, for example, tea picking. Agro-tourism has not been exploited in Kenya, especially Kericho, yet the county enjoys the lush green tea plantations interlaced with lines of tea pickers winding through the bushes. Kericho tea needs modelling as a new tourism brand. Agro-tourism has multiple appeals since the tourist will have an opportunity to see, taste, feel, smell and hear. This unmatched fascinating experience needs to be tapped into in Kericho County. A number of challenges, such as lack of information on farms that can be visited, firms organising agro-tours, farmers’ lack of knowledge on how to conduct agricultural tours and market their farms as agro-tourism hubs and slacken growth of agro-tourism. The county needs to handle potential tourists challenges by collaborating with tour operators and travel agents in organising the tours since they play a major role in the tourism value chain. Kericho County should work with renowned tea companies like Unilever Kenya, James Finlay, Williamson Tea and KTDA factories: Chelal, Toror, Tegat, Kapkatet, Momul and Litein in developing agro-tourism as a key tourism product in the region. The county government should sensitise farmers on agro-tourism and its benefits. Also, agro-tourism guides should be trained in the county for ease of work during agricultural tours. This is important because emotional involvement is required in captivating and dramatic tea presentations. The county should clearly stipulate agro-tourism itineraries, from farm visits to the final processing stage during marketing. This will attract local and international tourists to the region. Other attractions in the county should be developed to diversify the products in the region and meet international tourism standards. These attractions include Chebulu Conservancy, Tagabi Monkey Sanctuary, Fort Ternan Museum, Tulwap Kipsigis, Chagaik Arboretum, Kapkatet Museum among others. Attractions, accessibility, amenities and auxiliaries’ needs improvement in the county for it to be a tourist’s destination. Before choosing a destination to visit, tourists consider such things as what to see, how to get there, where to sleep, where to eat or drink and where to get medication in case one falls sick, among other things. Kericho County should appreciate tea, not only as a world renowned product, but as a potential tourism product that can be rebranded as an agro-tourism product. This will bring in more benefits in form of employment of both skilled and unskilled labour, increased income, more foreign exchange earnings, development of local resources, improvement of the living standards of the locals, improvement of infrastructure and superstructure, reinforced preservation of heritage, and justifies environmental protection among other things.
Source: Standard Media
Dr Kimeto is a tourism lecturer at University of Kabianga.