Resort City might be a pipe dream for Isiolo
By Hassan H. Kunune
Isiolo County is an epitome of splendid, glamour and utter beauty surrounded by seven wildlife sanctuaries. The Meru National Park, Shaba Samburu, Bisanadi, Buffalo Springs National Reserve, and Lewa Downs Conservancy all provide a variety of Wild Species including the Big 5 providing a perfect recipe for tourists. Isiolo has had a long and standing History of attracting tourist from many parts of the world despite the challenges that the sector has since faced. The region has a huge potential and with the right leadership the sector is capable of creating millions and earning the County very huge revenues.
The County has been host to many world-class films including the famous ‘Sheena Queen of the jungle’, ‘Out of Africa’, ‘Born Free’, ‘To Walk with the lions’ and the most recently ‘The White Maasai’. These movies have been a reflection of the perfect scenery for movie producers and that has a lot to do with the beautiful terrains that is available in the region. Isiolo has also been home to the famous Lewa Marathon which for a long time has hosted people from the Country and World at large. The marathon has been used to sell the region as a perfect destination for holiday lovers as well as raising funds for conservation of wildlife.
The great North road which passes right at the heart of the Town has helped open up the region to a World of immense possibilities. The Isiolo-Moyale-Addis Ababa road has spearheaded development along the major towns and Isiolo has been a stopover on the journey to North and as result several five star hotels have sprouted in the area. The influx of people has also boosted development in the County with a booming business and new up market apartments owing to the improved living standards in the region. The County is enjoying unlimited growth and the possibilities are too many with the County being earmarked as Resort City by 2030. The County needs to fast-track its development agenda to ensure time does not catch up with it
Isiolo County needs to create a perfect and conducive environment for development of the Tourism Sector. The development can be done through the following ways;
- Enhanced infrastructure that targets the tourist attraction centers and other potential areas.
- Regulation, coordination and market the Tourism sector through development and implementation of County promotion policy and develop the tourism niche.
- Providing tax and other incentives to investors in the Tourism Sector.
The Resort City is a hub of social-economic activities which would be the bedrock of our great future. The County can invest in hotels, golf courses, Camel Derbies, desert sport, mountain cycling and climbing, adventure driving, game safaris and tracking, bird watching, hot air balloon, parachuting, gliding, Eco-tourism and culture theaters among others. In a way the County should embark on ways of enhancing the sector and adopt modern ways of improving it. The marvelous work in Dubai should be one thing that we opt to focus on copying and adopting back at home.
The Country in 1971 commissioned a feasibility study to establish a tourist resort along the Coast and back then they recommended Diani Beach. The idea however flopped since it failed to address the key issues that would have impacted negatively on its sustainability. These issues included amongst others; non-participation by the local communities in the project conceptualization and design. The site failed to consider preservation of culture and religious rights such as Kayas and Mosques. The project model was dependent wholly on the Beach as the only Tourist attraction and failed to incorporate linkages with other sectors such as beach operators who were considered as nuisance yet they play a crucial role in the tourism development. This is a key lesson to those spearheading the Isiolo model; these individuals need to find ways of intertwining the community with the goals the project aims to achieve.
The County is set to triumph big names in the Tourism Sector but only if more focus is placed on preparing the County by ensuring we have good roads, good health facilities, good hotels and even recreational facilities that would make the Tourists want to come back again. The County can also encourage local tourism by providing incentives like free transport to the reserves so that more revenue can also be collected from the residents. If not well handled the prospects of resort city will remain a short memory and a treacherous notion instead of becoming the panacea we all wanted.
Hassan H. Kunune is an Artiste and Communication Officer at Bomas of Kenya.