Nairobi — Players in the tourism sector are on the moon after the annual wildebeest migration was declared one of the seven new Wonders of the World.
The celebratory mood has extended to the government and its marketing arm - the Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) - whose officials have just returned from a marketing tour of the United States.
They are agreed the expected boom in the number of visitors flocking to the Mara from the US market will bring in the much-sought dollars.
In addition, the big numbers expected will be the best indicator that Kenya is secure despite the travel advisories issued by the British and American governments and which their citizens have continued to defy by arriving in large numbers.
The biggest challenge for the country will be how to cope with the large numbers of visitors expected while ensuring the environment is preserved.
According to KTB, the US has overtaken Germany in the number of arrivals to attain second spot with 59,053 between January and September this year.
Tourist arrivals have increased by 13.2 per cent while earnings have risen by about five per cent in the same period
The industry gained Sh36 billion compared to Sh34 billion in the same period last year, making it one of the country's highest earning sectors with an average income of Sh4 billion.
The government will have to strictly enforce rules on the numbers to ensure the game reserve does not take more visitors than it can support.
KTB Managing Director Dr Ongong'a Achieng said the Maasai Mara will now be fully recognised as an international conservation destination.
The permanent secretary for Wildlife, Ms Rebecca Nabutola, says the declaration of the Mara as the Seventh Wonder by a panel of experts and a major American television channel - ABC- is good for the country because it is the Americans themselves whose government has been issuing travel advisories saying that Kenya was not secure.
The minister, Mr Morris Dzoro, who led the delegation to the US, says the migration will provide the entry point to market East Africa as a single tourist destination.
A meeting of ministers in charge of tourism from the three countries will take place in Arusha next week where the issue will exhaustively be discussed, Mr Dzoro said on the telephone.
Kenya Wildlife Service Director Julius Kipnge'tich said plans were under way to brand the reserve as the place of the wildebeest. He hopes the feat by the Mara will act as an entry point for the visitors to visit other parks within the country.
The Kenya Association of Tour Operators chairman Duncan Muriuki said that although it will be easier to sell the attraction as it gives the country a competitive edge, focus must shift to promoting the Maasai Mara as an exotic destination like Mauritius is doing to reap maximum benefits.
The sales and marketing director of Serena Hotels, Mr Peter Mbogua, said: "We have the best wildlife experience in the world. South Africa has its own but ours is unique and the only one of its kind. This is an important development but we need to be careful so as not to over-develop the Maasai Mara."
According to the ABC, other declared wonders are Tibet's Potala Palace, selected for the hope it provides to exiled Tibetans that one day they will return to their homeland; the Old Jerusalem City, and the Polar Ice Caps in Iceland for the mixture of cold frozen glaciers and volcanoes.
There is also the underwater Hawaiian Island's Monument, a protected underwater coral reef; the Internet - described as a world where anything is possible and the Mayan Pyramids in Cancun, Mexico, whose sight was described as breathtaking.