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Monday, 22 April, 2019, 18 : 00 PM [IST]
‘MICE travel from India to Kenya can grow multi-fold if the yellow fever requirement is removed’

Kenya-based DMC Safari Trails is promoting its luxury camp in the heart of Masai Mara National Reserve in the Indian market alongside offering seat in coach tours on its 4x4 safari vehicles. Moreover, to further strengthen its foothold, the company has appointed THS Representations as its representative in India and plans to conduct multi-city roadshows later this year along with partners. Rajay Thethy, Marketing Director, Safari Trails, spoke to Disha Shah Ghosh about the East Africa opportunity for the discerning Indian traveller.

Q In the decade-long presence of Safari Trails in India, how has the market evolved?
We ventured into India in 2008 having recognised its position as an emerging inbound source market, and have grown gradually since then. When we came here, India was among the top 50 markets for Kenya, and today it ranks among the top 5. Safari Trails has a strong presence in the GCC countries, Australia and South East Asia. Together with Kenya Tourism Board we have created awareness about the country in India.

Well travelled and researched Indians are looking for a new experience, and Kenya and East Africa perfectly fit the bill. We promote Kenya, Tanzania and East Africa as authentic safari destinations. In fact, Safari Trails is a one-stop shop for Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and the Indian Ocean islands.

From India, we see huge influx from Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru (especially wildlife enthusiasts for photography), as well as Pune, and a little bit from Chennai. We have seen some traction from the Tier-II cities like Chandigarh and Nagpur as well and good MICE movements from pan India.

Q Enlist a few challenges that you face in India.
An important area of concern for us is product knowledge, along with problem of perception. Kenya is an all year-round destination. Due to the proximity to the equator and high-altitude location, Kenya enjoys pleasant climate all year round. The country has a good infrastructure and Indian meals are easily available.

The biggest challenge for us is that the Indian government hasn’t reviewed the mandatory yellow fever vaccination for travel to Kenya, and it is a very big hurdle for us. The last reported case of yellow fever in Kenya was in the 1950s in a remote part of the country. It is only the Indian government that requires a yellow fever vaccination certificate. We get clients from US, Canada, Australia and Europe, who don’t require a yellow fever vaccination certificate. With Nairobi being the gateway to East Africa, everyone coming from India needs this certificate. We have tried to address this issue with our government. However, the Kenya Ministry of Health has to engage with their counterparts in India along with the WHO to assess the situation. It is a long-drawn diplomatic process. Maybe, the Indian government can change the requirement from mandatory to advisory, because it is really killing the tourism business, especially MICE. This is at a time when corporate entities in India are looking for new destinations.

We see a big rise in MICE travel to East Africa. We have handled 7 MICE groups from pharmaceutical, motor, fashion, insurance, banking, IT, etc. from India in the last year. This is because Kenya and Tanzania offer visa on arrival. MICE travel from India can grow multi-fold if the yellow fever requirement for Kenya is removed.

Q What is your strategy in India for 2019-2020?
THS Representations has started representing us in India from April 1 and will undertake product knowledge and trainings. We have known Tasneem for many years, and she has a good network of agents in India, and people associate her with the African product. Together with THS, we will come with our partner hotels, tourism board and airlines to organise roadshows in Ahemdabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata during September. Moreover, we are going to get the Kenya Tourism Board to partner with us for certified trainings for front line staff after imparting product trainings.

Q What kind of product enhancements have been undertaken at Safari Trails?
We own our fleet of 4x4 vehicles. These cars have been specially fabricated for the rugged terrain of the jungles with ample leg space. We tailor made them for our specifications with a specialised suspension. We offer WiFi on board and a fridge with refreshments. Our motto is the key ingredient for a good safari is a good vehicle and a good guide.

Moreover, we now have our own camp in the Masai Mara, Enaidura Luxury Camp. It is in the heart of Masai Mara and has been introduced in India. This is an apt product for safari purists to see the migration and witness the Big 5. The camp is rustic, bare foot luxury, exactly how safaris were done in the 1920s. It is very secure, because we have the Masai people looking after the camp, and each tent has a private guard.

Q Which are some of your key segments of focus in India?
We are promoting destination weddings in India for Mombasa, Samburu and Sabo National Parks. There are big resorts in Mombasa, and Kenya has beaches, dhow cruises, as well as venues for sundowners. Our focus in India is leisure, MICE and Indian weddings. We are promoting a combination of beach and bush for MICE travellers. There is a new train from Nairobi and Mombasa, guests can do a 2-nights stay in Savo and then move on to Mombasa for nightlife and water sport activities.

Besides high-end traffic, we also cater to budget travellers. We have introduced seat in coach facility for our 4X vehicles at competitive rates starting from a 5-night safari at USD 590 per person, all inclusive in four-star properties.