Up Mt Kenya (and down again)

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Mt Kenya. Image © Kenya Tourism Board

Last week, over five days, the minister for tourism in Kenya – Najib Balala – climbed up Mt Kenya.

Why?

To highlight tourism in the country and hiking in the ranges in particular.

Describing it, according to Kenya’s Daily Nation, as both exhausting and humbling, Balala said that it was a life-changing experience though tough and a necessary break from the hectic world.

Mt Kenya is about 5,200 metres high (about 17,000 feet) and is the second highest mountain in Africa after Mt Kilimanjaro in neighbouring Tanzania and provides the name of the country. He didn’t journey the whole way up, just to Lenana Peak, which is about 200 metres below the summit. Nonetheless, in the process, the minister faced heavy rainfall and freezing temperatures as did the rest of his eleven-strong party. He admitted that he hadn’t done any training for the climb and that he probably should have done.

But is it necessary for a tourism minister to do something like this to raise tourism awareness? And was it effective?

The story certainly made the Kenyan newspapers and some of the international travel trade press. Two stories posted on YouTube have only managed about a thousand views so far. International coverage in the general media has been hard to spot yet when have you ever heard of our tourism ministers in the UK, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or the Republic doing something similar to raise tourism awareness? Admittedly we have no mountains anywhere near that high but one of the ministers in the UK could have walked a hundred miles along one our coastal paths to highlight tourism? In those weeks called tourism weeks when tourism is highlighted in each of the four UK countries what do the tourism ministers do but shake a few hands and talk platitudes about how important tourism is.

If the role of a tourism minister is to promote tourism and to be seen to promote it, it is time that  they got out of their offices once in a while and started some PR offensives like Mr Balala did to remind the world that the UK and Ireland are places to visit and that there is a lot to see and do.

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