Travel to Kenya used to sit atop every traveler’s destination wish list. But since 2013, news reports of terrorist attacks, piracy, and kidnappings have devastated the country’s tourism industry, which accounts for about 15% of Kenya’s GDP. I recently attended the We Are Africa conference in Cape Town, and Kenya-based hoteliers told me occupancy was barely hovering at 30%; one man said that he and his wife were considering closing their lodge because business has been so slow. The lack of travel to Kenya also puts the country’s wildlife at risk. If tourists don’t go on safari, there aren’t eyes on the ground—locals don’t get paid, and poachers move in.
But as global citizens and smart travelers, we need to do our research, think contextually, and continue to travel. Travel warnings issued by the U.S. Department of State focus only on the coast and Somali borders, yet the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the Rift Valley still sit empty. Nicky Fitzgerald, owner of the soon-to-open Angama Mara, which sits high on the Rift Valley’s Oloololo Escarpment, told me that the fear around travel to Kenya is even more reason to go now.
Here are five reasons why now is the best possible time to travel to Kenya:
1. Prices are down.
You’ll be able to catch the great migration at the best possible rates and get excellent deals on safaris and lodging. Ask for a private safari vehicle, and chances are you will get one free (they can cost up to $600 a day, normally).
2. You’ll have the migration pretty much all to yourself.
Think of having no one around when you are gazing at Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal, or the Mona Lisa. It’s a rare opportunity to witness a major bucket list experience without the crowds.
3. Security is higher on the agenda than ever.
Traveler safety is everyone’s top priority.
4. The U.S. dollar is strong right now.
You get a bigger bang for your buck.
5. Hospitality staff are eager to show Kenya off at its best.
This means service that goes above and beyond. Think picnics in remote places and magical sundowners.