Safari Rally fuels Naivasha’s new business boom

Carl Tundo and Tim Jessop

Kenyan rally driver Carl Tundo (right) and his co-driver Tim Jessop. PHOTO | MACHARIA MWANGI | NMG


  • Organisers say at least 10,000 people from all over the world are expected to attend.

Hotels in Naivasha are fully booked as hundreds of guests arrive for the eagerly awaited World Rally Championship (WRC) scheduled for this week.

Organisers say at least 10,000 people from all over the world are expected to attend.

Hyriss Hotel general manager Geoffrey Mariga said all its 65 rooms at the facility had been booked. The hotel has also hired additional workers to cope with the increase in guests.

A senior manager at Viewers Park Hotel, Ms Mary Rahab, said they had run out of rooms even as booking enquiries still streamed 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.

“It is an iconic event that will market Kenya, with a global audience being treated to quality production and 155 television stations beaming the event live,” WRC Safari Rally chief executive officer Phineas Kimathi said.

Digital booking

The Nakuru County Tourism Association (NCTA) has unveiled a digital booking system in partnership with technology firm HPass Global for hotels, bars and restaurants.

Guests will no longer need to manually register when checking into hotels or share menus. The system allows them to access digital menus through their mobile phones and check-in and -out by just scanning a quick response (QR) code.

Speaking after signing the agreement, NCTA chairman David Mwangi said that the initiative will boost the profile of Nakuru County as a tourism destination and help curb the spread of Covid-19.

“We want Nakuru County to be a safe tourism destination. With this innovation, we can achieve up to 80 percent contact-less visitor experience,” he said.

Local innovation

“HPass is a local innovation that was born right here in Nakuru and we are happy they are supporting us achieve our goal of making Nakuru County a safe destination,” he added.

NCTA members will get complimentary access to the digital tools from HPass Global, whose founder and CEO Francis Njue said: “We are committed to supporting NCTA in its efforts to recover from the effects of the pandemic.”

Nakuru County now joins other global destinations that are using innovation and technology to boost their “safe destination” commitments. Mr Mwangi said NCTA members were ready to give the event that will be beamed live the best shot.

“We expect the visitors to come back for sightseeing. We have to make a good impression,” said Mr Mwangi.

Sponsorship deal

Naivasha town also saw the signing of a sponsorship deal between mobile operator Safaricom #ticker:SCOM and Equator African Rally Championship winner Carl “Flash” Tundo.

The Safari Rally champion is also expected to mentor three young Kenyan drivers selected as part of the FIA Rally Star programme under a separate sponsorship deal with Safaricom.

“Over the years, I have had the opportunity to gain so much from the sport and, as I look forward to an exciting Safari Rally challenge, I’m equally elated to get the chance to pass on some of the knowledge I have gained to three of Kenya’s future rally stars. As far as the rally itself is concerned, I feel ready and so is the car. We’ll give it our best shot and appreciate Safaricom for believing in us and coming on board,” said Mr Tundo.

He will be driving a Minti Motorsports VW Polo R5, the same car that saw him clinch the 2021 ARC Equator Rally.

“I am excited and pleased to be associated with Safaricom in supporting the team. We wish them every success in the WRC event which thankfully has returned to Kenya. Minti Motorsports, although a UK company, have their hearts in Kenyan rallying and especially in developing young talent in Kenyan Motorsports. It is our dream to have a world champion from Kenya one day,” said Minti Motorsports director Joey Ghose.

Mr Tundo is a five-time winner of the Safari Rally and in 2009 was crowned Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) champion, making him the first and only Kenyan winner of an IRC round.

Nurturing young drivers

“The fact that Carl Tundo is one of the few Kenyan drivers who took part in the last WRC Safari Rally speaks to how experienced and consistent he is. We are proud to be sponsoring one of Kenya’s best rally drivers as well as three of the most promising ones,” said Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa.

Safaricom’s partnership with Mr Tundo brings their investment in the WRC Safari Rally to Sh21 million. Earlier this week, the telco announced a Sh17.5 million sponsorship for the rally as it makes its return to the WRC calendar for the first time in close to two decades. The sponsorship includes Sh15 million to support three young Kenyan drivers selected as part of the FIA Rally Star programme.

This is a global initiative aimed at identifying, training and developing talented young drivers between the ages of 17 and 26.

The three Kenyan drivers who have been selected for the FIA Rally star programme are Jeremy Wahome, Hamza Anwar and McRae Mutwiri Kimathi.

No matatus

Meanwhile, matatus have been ordered out of the central business district, Naivasha Sub-county police boss Samuel Waweru told the Nation.

“We have to be on top of things and one way to ensure that is by clearing traffic in areas prone to snarl-ups. We have stationed officers to ensure everything is being done according to the script,” said the police boss.

The event has also seen the prompt completion of a bridge that was being refurbished on a stretch of the Naivasha-Maai Mahiu highway. 

Motorists have for the past few months endured tough times after they were re-routed to allow for the completion of the bridge.

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