That picture of a genuinely amazed Facebook owner young billionaire Mark Zuckerberg at the sight of Lake Naivasha’s wildlife beauty is what Kenyan tourism needed to revitalize a sector that had suffered in previous months; but why wasn’t Mark at Friday’s Kwita Izina ceremony?
If he was in Kenya for tourism, then he should also have come to Rwanda for Friday’s baby gorilla naming ceremony and completed his East African experience with a twenty minute stop in Kampala to taste the Rolex (a Ugandan street food not the luxury wrist watch).
Forgive my procrastination but I am talking about East Africa’s Single Tourist Visa. Over a year ago, the Heads of States of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda unveiled the joint initiative that would enable tourists to access the three countries at pleasure.
The initiative meant that a foreigner coming into the region through, say, Kenya, with tourism intentions, would receive the single visa and get to visit all three countries.
No marks to point out that the initiative would boost regional travel and create opportunities for tourists to explore the diversity in the three Northern Corridor countries and in addition, share revenues from the Visa sales.
On this basis, it is fair to say that our Kenyan friends should have disclosed to Mark Zuckerberg all benefits he was entitled to, by virtue of being a foreigner visiting Kenya for tourism.
Mark should have been told that his tourism menu extended to two other countries in the neighborhood. But a little marketing was required here, because it is possible that someone may know about Kenyan tourism and nothing about Rwanda’s or Uganda.
Which is why, in order to make the Single Visa initiative a success, the three countries should have also appointed high level marketing executives stationed at respective embassies to market tourism opportunities in their countries and entice visitors to exploit the opportunity.
Had we had such an executive in Nairobi, this is what they should have told the Facebook billionaire, his beautiful wife and their entourage.
“Dear Mr. Zuckerberg, welcome to our beautiful region, East Africa. As you might have read or heard already, we have quite a lot to offer and since you are partly here to tour, I must commend you for the perfect timing, you couldn’t have chosen a better time to visit,” the executive would have said.
“After your Kenyan experience, which I can guarantee you will find absolutely worthwhile, Uganda and Rwanda will be waiting to spice up your adventure in the region.
“In Uganda, otherwise known as the Pearl of Africa, they have only recently launched the Rolex (Zuckerberg looks at his wrist watch, seemingly puzzled); no, not the wrist watch, sir, it is a popular street food made from baked flour (chapatti) and rolled eggs hence the name ‘Rolex.’
Your people must have noticed a picture that recently went viral on your Facebook, of a female Ugandan Minister swallowing a Rolex during its launch; we strongly recommend that you taste it before leaving the region,” the marketing executive would have cajoled before continuing…
“Now, after Kenya and Uganda, I humbly urge you to conclude your adventure in Rwanda, otherwise known as the land of a thousand hills, milk and honey. Mark, mark my words; you guys will love Rwanda. Everybody does.
You will also most certainly be blown away by Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame; he is an absolute tech fan! You already know that he has one of the most active presidential accounts on Facebook, yes?
But here is why you must go to Rwanda after your trips in Kenya and Uganda. Kwita Izina! Try to pronounce that at your tongue’s risk. It is a name giving ceremony; for baby mountain gorillas, Rwanda’s main tourist attraction.
Kwita Izina is the most important activity on Rwanda’s tourism calendar. It is even more important this year because President Paul Kagame himself is attending the event, you two should meet!
In fact, if you attend the event, you will get to confer a name upon one of the twenty-two baby guerillas. I can guarantee you that, Mark.”
With that effort, Mark Zuckerberg would have definitely come to Kigali and not only attended the Kwita Izina but also named one of the twenty-two babies.
Being a global icon and social media influencer, Zuckerberg’s pictures posing with one of the dummy gorillas and trying out the Rwanda Cultural dance among other things that he would have done while here, would have immediately become a trending topic on Facebook.
His adventure would also have been a subject of hundreds of online articles just like is the case now with Kenya’s wildlife, following pictures of Mark on enjoying his adventure.
This is not wishful thinking. After launching things, we should always have a sustainable plan to keep the momentum. For example, a year after we welcomed Kigali’s first Car Free Zone, it is now a dead street, which isn’t what we exactly had in mind.
As for tourism, when global influencers such as Mark Zuckerberg pay us a visit, we should always aim for maximum benefits to the region not just a single country.