Africa on Sale

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From the crowded streets of Cairo and the kasbahs of Morocco, to the splendored plains of the Masai Mara and the game-rich lands of South Africa, there’s a world of value out there for clients eager to experience the wonders of Africa.

For example, Kenya, which took a pummeling tourist numbers-wise at the beginning of the year when the political riots occurred—their first quarter numbers from North America dropped over 42 percent—has rebounded back in a big way.

The tourist board recently released its arrival numbers for October showing massive increases from the U.S. market. And, interestingly enough, a big part of that rebound can be credited to President Barack Obama. As Kenya underwent a tourism downturn after its own presidential election was contested and a power sharing agreement between both parties was later brokered, the country is embracing the new attention it has received due to Obama’s heritage link. Those October numbers, in fact, showed only a 6.4 percentage decrease of arrivals over last year. Tourism officials are expecting 2009 numbers to increase back to 2007 numbers, when Kenya welcomed over 100,000 U.S. tourists.

The big push has come from travelers interested in learning about President Obama’s lineage. With Obama’s father having been born in the western region of Kenya in a small town called Kogelo, travelers are increasingly turning to this spectacular tourism destination. As a result, there’s already commitments for more flights, and new tourism product and tourism circuits are being established. Just after President Obama’s win, in fact, Delta Air Lines announced it would introduce direct service into Nairobi from the Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport. This will be the first, and currently the only direct flight into Kenya from the U.S. market. Service will run four times weekly and will begin on June 2 as Kenya’s high season kicks off. Tour operators have also begun announcing visits to Obama’s father’s hometown of Kogelo in Western Kenya. Unfortunately, the town currently does not have a hotel, but plans are in place to build up the region for a new stop on the Western Tourism Circuit. Travelers who visit Kogelo will either overnight in Kisumu or around Lake Victoria, where hotels and lodges are readily available. Some operators are even setting up tented camps, normally seen in national parks and game reserves, near the Kogelo region so that travelers can have a tented camp experience in Western Kenya.

Somak Safaris has launched two new Kenya safaris that combine a safari with a visit to the Obama village with ample opportunities to meet the village people and elders, visit a local school, enjoy folk dancing and learn about the culture and traditions of the Luo people of Kenya. Both tours, in addition to the visit to the Obama village, offer itineraries that include game viewing in Kenya’s popular national parks such as the Amboseli, the Samburu, Lake Nauru and the world-famous Masai Mara. Departures from New York are scheduled every Friday throughout 2009. Tour prices start from $4,780 pp with roundtrip airfare, accommodations, ground transportation, sightseeing and all meals.

For a more affordable Kenya option, try the 11-day Glimpse of Kenya program, which is basically an introduction to the splendors of Kenya and which takes clients to four national parks and game reserves along a classic safari route. It includes stays in distinctive and comfortable accommodations that offer great value, such as a world-famous “tree hotel” that overlooks a watering hole. Groups are limited to no more than six, and vacationers will have the opportunity to visit the alkaline waters of Lake Nakuru and enjoy two nights of game viewing in the open plains of the Masai Mara. Rates run from $2,425 with roundtrip air from $1,345.

2Afrika has also added a new Kenya tour honoring President Obama—the Presidential Heritage Tour—which is a 10-night trip to Kenya and includes visits to Mt. Kenya and Lake Nakuru national parks, and the Masai Mara. The itinerary, which calls for two nights in Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria, costs $2,999 pp plus about $295 in taxes and an additional fuel surcharge. Departures are in April and May.

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