In a most festive evening, an event aptly named “Magical Kenya,” a gathering took place to celebrate the inauguration of a non-stop flight from JFK to Nairobi. The exciting event was held in the SLS Hotel’s Garden Room. Sponsored by the Kenyan Tourist Board, and hosted by the Honorable Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Tourism & Wildlife, the venue was transformed into a visual taste of Kenya with giant, colorful posters decorating the walls lending a peek into what a visitor might experience.
Greeted with a “Sundowner” – a cocktail traditionally served at sunset on Kenyan safaris – an array of food was offered to the 130 people in attendance. Guests ranged from tour operators and travel agents to a sprinkling of journalists. Much to the delight of attendees, the festivities began with a wonderful troupe of young dancers who performed traditional tribal dances. Kicking off the few speeches, which were quite informative, an entertaining Al Merschen, partner in Myriad, a company that represents Kenya Tourism, he asked the group, “How many of you would like to win two tickets to Nairobi? Of course, every hand in the room shot up after which he announced that he actually had two free tickets to Sacramento, which resulted in gales of laughter. He then painted a verbal description of the magical experiences that awaited visitors to Kenya, ranging from culture, safaris, animals, the compelling landscapes and vistas, to the beaches, the gastronomy, and most of all the friendly, warm people. He added, “Kenya is a place you don’t go to “visit,” but a place that you visit to “feel.” Other speakers included the aforementioned Honorable CS Najib Balala who talked about the special bond between the United States and Kenya. Paul Dehaan, Sales Manager of Kenya Airways, gave a brief presentation about the new flight, scheduled to launch in a month, with fares beginning at $700. Following a brief film illustrating some of the extraordinary experiences awaiting a tourist, Dehaan reached into a bowl and selected a business card of a guest who would receive the two free tickets to Nairobi. For the record, I didn’t win.
Perhaps the most exciting speaker was the enchanting Kenya Tourism Board CEO, Dr. Betty Radier. She stated that, “With this new direct flight, tourism should increase and is expected to impact positively on my country’s economy.” She shared that before 2017 the UK was their Number 1 tourism partner, but presently the U.S. occupies the Number 1 spot. Radier then played a game with the audience in which she asked a series of questions about Kenya and whoever got the right answer, earned a piece of jewelry that she removed from her wrists or neck. Luckily this never became a version of Strip Poker.
The evening culminated with the guests getting up to dance, some of who were lucky enough to dance with one of the members of the talented dance troop and being a trained dancer myself, I happily got to take a few whirls around the floor. Oh, the difficult life of a travel writer, but like they say, “someone has to do it.”
For information on this special new non-stop flight to Nairobi, do contact your travel agent and take advantage of this golden opportunity.