Machakos County isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you think of Kenya’s world-famous tourism destinations.
One is more likely to think of the wildebeest migration at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve or the sandy beaches of Diani.
Thanks to a blend of culture, investment, deliberate marketing efforts and collaboration between public and private sector players, Machakos is cutting a niche for itself in the hospitality sector.
With the Covid-19 pandemic having numerous ramifications on travel, Machakos has been a beneficiary of increased local tourism.
It is fast becoming a viable alternative for weekend getaways, conference tourism, cultural events, sports, film and music festivals traditionally held in cities like Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.
The Gengetone Festival, for instance, one of the most talked about concerts of the year, took place in Machakos in November.
Machakos Peoples Park has also been playing host to the Masaku Flea and Curio Market, with the third edition having taken place on Sunday, December 6.
The flea market connects numerous sellers and buyers, with curios and handicrafts including baskets, jewelry and paintings on display.
Since the People’s Park was opened by the Governor Alfred Mutua-led county government in 2014, it has been one of the more popular attractions in the county.
It attracts families looking to wind down and relax on weekends, and is almost always booked for various concerts and events.
Giving credit where it is due, facilities at the park have been properly maintained by the county government over the years.
Machakos has also undoubtedly been one of the biggest beneficiaries of sports tourism in the country.
Kenyatta Stadium, refurbished in 2013 and upgraded again in 2018, has established itself as a key venue for top-flight football matches in the country in the space of a few years.
Renovation works at Nairobi’s Nyayo and Kasarani stadiums in recent years meant that the Machakos stadium was preferred for various fixtures.
The stadium has hosted several other sporting events, including the CAR Africa women’s Sevens Cup and the Bamburi Rugby Super Series.
These sporting events draw fans to Machakos and promise a carnival atmosphere.
For many fans and fun-loving Kenyans in general, the idea of a road-trip makes the prospect of visiting Machakos more appealing.
Away from the park and stadium, private sector investments in the hospitality sector have driven increased interest in visiting Machakos.
The county is home to various resorts and hotels, some of which have been established in recent years.
Recent entrants such as the high-end A & L Hotel are exciting additions to a space which already has the likes of Gelian Hotel, Last Village, Ol Donyo Sapuk Resort and Kyaka Hotel.
Notably, the county’s tourism department has been working to promote hotels in the county through its social media pages and other platforms.
All things considered, Machakos has commendably managed to go from a dusty town neighbouring the capital to one of the most exciting destinations in the country.