Tourism is the second biggest sector in Laikipia after agriculture. The average tourist facility today contains just 20 beds. In many cases the tourism footprint is managed in such a way as to maintain exclusivity for visitors, preserving the high-quality wildlife viewing and wilderness experience that Laikipia has become renowned for. Urban tourism has also grown markedly in recent years – a result of general growth in Nanyuki in particular and as a by-product of the wider natural appeal of Laikipia. Facilities are targeting business travelers and leisure tourists who are drawn to Laikipia by its relative accessibility from Nairobi and the proximity of wildlife and nature.
While per person per night rates vary from US$25 to US$425, the typical rate in Laikipia is US$325. 18% of facilities charge under US$100 per person per night; 28% between US$100- US$299 and 54% over US$300. Average earnings to the operator per available bed are on average 11% higher than the national average.
Collectively, Laikipia’s tourism operations offer 56 different wilderness-based activities – many more than are on offer anywhere else in Kenya. Most facilities still depend on game drives as the main activity, but unlike in National Parks, where game drives are almost the only permitted activity, other activities are becoming increasingly popular and important in Laikipia. These include Cultural visits, Bird watching, Swimming, Walking, Camel rides, Sundowners, Camel safaris, Bush Dinners, Wildlife research activities, Night game drives, Fly camping, Climbing, Botany, Ranch tours, Horse riding, Fishing, Tennis, School visits and Helicopter Excursions.
Strong Promotion: Many of the facilities regularly feature in top international travel and architectural publications (a recognition of the inspiring designs used in many facilities).
Many facilities are owner-operated, with 60% of the region’s tourism operations controlled by Kenyan citizens. Laikipia’s tourism businesses enjoy a high level of return visits.
The County Government recognizes that tourism development in Laikipia should be primarily driven by entrepreneurs and the private sector, as they are best placed to react to market opportunities and therefore the sector will be more robust and commercially sustainable. However, regulation of the sector plays a vital role and such regulation should be developed with the principal goal of establishing an ‘enabling environment’ in which tourism businesses in Laikipia can thrive.