Kenya: From the Bush to Cup - Tea Tourism Launched

1 December 2020

The scintillating green swathes of tea plantations snake their way through Bomet and Kericho counties in the South Rift region in what gives local and foreign tourists breathtaking views.

Proximity of the tea plantations to Mau Forest complex and Maasai Mara Game Reserve, a global tourist attraction, makes a lifelong experience for those on safari.

It is in that backdrop that tea tourism -- a new product in the sector -- was launched at the weekend in Bomet.

With tea being Magical Kenya's famous product, it is expected to attract a high number of foreign and local tourists.

Bomet is in a strategic position owing its proximity to Mara ecosystem, encompassing Mara Game Reserve.

Tea tourism has been perfected in Pakistan, China and India, with the product being a source of revenue stream for governments and stakeholders in the sector.

The Kenya government is keen on using the new tourism package to create employment opportunities and enhance growth of various industries related to the sector as part of inching forward towards achieving Vision 2030.

"Kenyan tea is a popular global brand that has put the country on the global map for decades. We are leveraging on it as a tourist attraction product," said Tourism Chief Administrative Secretary Joseph Boinnet.

Tea is a major foreign exchange earner in Kenya after tourism. The produce is exported to Europe, Asia and the United States.

Kenya also shines globally for its great agricultural and horticultural products including flowers and coffee, which are also major foreign exchange earners.

South Rift offers a unique tea tourism experience as it plays host to the largest concentration of multinational companies including James Finlays, Unilever, Sotik Highlands, Sasini tea and George Williamsons.

Travel experiences

The Ministry of Tourism through the Kenya Tourism Board is implementing a strategy to identify and promote a collection of authentic and exceptional Kenya travel experiences.

"Tea tourism is a virgin area that has not been fully exploited. The launch of the product is the beginning of full exploration and maximisation of its benefits, both at economic and social levels," said Mr Boinnet when he unveiled the product at Kipsigis Highlands Multipurpose Cooperative Society tea factory in Konoin Constituency.

Farm itineraries to showcase the tea experience from the bush, factory and to the cup are being developed for both local and international travellers who are keen on sampling the product.

Both Bomet and Kericho counties are key gateways to the world famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve and would offer a unique blend of wildlife and tea safaris.

"There is no better way of building synergy between tourism and agriculture than embracing agri-tourism. This will not only sustain our economic livelihoods but also our tourism strategy to diversify," said Mr Boinet.

Next year, Bomet County plans to launch the Tea Marathon, which is expected to be anchored on the Athletics Kenya yearly calendar of events.

Tea plantations

Athletes will compete through routes that will pass through tea plantations.

"We need to diversify our interests in tourism as national and county governments by moving away from our traditional products like museums and tourism," said Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok.

Dr Barchok said apart from the beautiful and natural sceneries in the region coupled with the proximity of Mau Forest complex, cultural tourism would also be embedded in the new package.

"Tea plantations and individual farmers have been asked to come up with various packages that will attract tourists for excursions in the region, and take advantage of the proximity of Mau complex that cuts through Narok, Nakuru, Bomet and Kericho counties," said Mr Charles Korir, the head of Tourism in Bomet.

Bomet was chosen as a launching pad for the tea tourism package as it has the largest concentration of multinational tea companies and the highest number of privately owned and Kenya Tea Agency managed factories in the country. "Bomet has the highest acreage of smallholder farms under tea and usually leads in tea bonus paid out to farmers yearly by KTDA," said Boito MCA Charles Langat.

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