The just concluded World Rally Championships (WRC) Safari Rally in Naivasha injected more than Sh4 billion to the Nakuru economy, business leaders in the region have said.
The international event was a big boost, especially to the tourism sector, said Mr Njuguna Kamau, a director at the East African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, yesterday.
"The World Rally Championships in Naivasha pumped more than Sh4 billion to the economy. All three- and four-star hotels in Naivasha-- the main section of the rallying circuit -- Nakuru, Elementaita and Maai Mahiu, were fully booked for the four days the event took place," he said.
The hotels reported 100 per cent bookings for the four days.
The hospitality industry reported good business. At least 10,000 people, a majority of them spectators from all over the world, attended the event, Mr Kamau told the Nation.
Hotels fully booked
"We also had other businesses outside the hospitality industry benefiting from the WRC. The event injected billions to the economy and was a major boost to the tourism sector in the region that has been reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic, with a sharp decline in international visitors as countries retained tough cross-border restrictions.
The Nation learnt that the hotel rooms had been booked in advance for participants and their crews.
The foreign drivers and their back-up teams and families came from as far as Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.
Several hotels, including Enashipai Resort and Spa, Sawela Lodge, Naivasha Kongoni Lodge, Lake Naivasha Resort and Lake Naivasha Panorama Park, were fully booked.
Among the businesses that benefited from the event were dealers in petroleum and food and beverages, the entertainment and hospitality industry and hawkers.
Residents with an entrepreneurial spirit converted open grounds into camping sites for rally fans who did not find accommodation in hotels.
They pitched tents in various places, including at an expansive sanctuary on Moi South Lake road.
A resident, Mr Joseph Maina, revealed that he set up two tents after hiring the ground for Sh1,500 with the gazebo going for Sh6,500 a night.
Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui said the tourism sector in the county received a massive boost from local tourists who arrived for the rally, which was on Sunday graced by President Uhuru Kenyatta, among other leaders.
"As the host county of the WRC, we are amazed by the high number of spectators who attended the event. This is a clear indication that the sport was missed and provided the needed boost to our hospitality industry. We are grateful to President Kenyatta's announcement that Kenya will host the WRC until 2026," said Mr Kinyanjui.
"The event is a shot in the arm for the hospitality industry, which has been on its knees since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country last year," added the county boss.
Hospitality industry's boost
According to the Nakuru County Tourism Association (NCTA) chairman David Mwangi, the hospitality industry heavily reaped from the rally.
"The WRC has left a lasting mark that makes Nakuru a key world tourism destination. The event connected Kenya and the world, displaying its fame as an authentic safari destination, reinforced with live media coverage of the rally cars traversing the wild and scenic locations across the region," Mr Mwangi told the Nation.
A manager at the Enashipai Resort said rooms were fully booked, even as enquiries for space kept streaming in.
"This the best it can ever get. I don't think there is anyone in the sector complaining about lack of business," she said.
'Red light streets'
Business was brisk on the "red light streets" of Naivasha, with an influx of commercial sex workers in the town.
A taxi operator told the Nation that he made Sh100,000 over two days, ferrying visitors around Naivasha.
The nightlife was, however, largely disrupted by the 10pm-4am curfew aimed at curtailing the spread of Covid-19.
The WRC Safari Rally, which is governed and organised by Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) took place from June 23 to 27, covering two sub counties of Nakuru -- Naivasha and Gilgil.
The rally returned to Africa after 19 years, with the last one held in 2002.