"We are not a jaza gari twende company."
Rising to much deserved celebrity after the Nairobi IG Tour of July 2017, the company had photos of Nairobian creatives flooding social media where they graced some of the best establishments the city had to offer. And according to founder, Muthuri Kinyamu, that wasn’t the beginning.
Turnup.Travel is an agency that offers concierge travel packages and adventures.
Kinyamu, of medium height, an easy smile and donning a fitted leather jacket with red denim pants, explained it as, “A company to document experiences that can help, inspire and nurture young people into travelling.”
Speaking to Pulse Live Kenya from the atmospheric Metta Lounge in Westlands, Kinyamu delved into what made Turnup.Travel become such an exception in probably the most saturated industry in the country.
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“I started Turnup after meeting my co-founder on a trip to Mombasa,” he said.
Together with his co-creator Brian Gatimu, who is a photographer, they started an avenue where they could intersect their skills from digital marketing and content creation together with their love of travel.
Turnup’s unique business model has allowed to have a stellar first year. Participants get to view both sides of the travel industry.
“You get to experience behind the scenes of travel. The inflows and outflows of different routes. Why some fares are more expensive than others yet they are the same distance. Why some hotels only run during the school holidays,” the entrepreneur explained.
The other opportunity for travellers who use Turnup is to capture experiences. The cycle seemed to revolve around journeying, exploring, capturing and sharing. So as to demystify any preconceptions about wandering- such as “travel is only for rich people”. The tailored tours take into account everything: be it a business trip, family trip or even special needs tours.
For instance, the previously held Nairobi IG tours, a 24 hour trip around Nairobi was organised to highlight various favourites. An upcoming tour to Turkana is planned where they intend to magnify the county’s best kept treasures. Turkana is even Kinyamu’s favourite destination.
“Turkana is one of the best places I’ve ever been to. I like such places. They challenge my perceptions and privileges. They have character.”
He was also quick to point out that Lodwar, Turkana County’s capital, is a hub of economic activity. It has one of the busiest routes on domestic flights due to the Kakuma Refugee Camp, ongoing industrialisation after the recent discovery of oil deposits and to some extent, wildlife and archaeological tourism. Lodwar town has four airports, luxury lodges and income varied accommodation.
Devolution is one of the things credited to this slow-rising development in most counties that were previously harshly uninhabitable. Kinyamu gave the example of Kapenguria.
“You find that in the past, only the MP had a car there so they didn’t have roads. But the counties, with their small budgets some of it goes to tenders to develop the areas. You have more roads and eventually, this will help counties develop sub-brands that they can market to boost tourism.”
Kinyamu was very passionate about the state of tourism in the country. Catering to a niche that may appear risky to the first unentrepreneurial onlooker- it doesn’t seem like the wisest decision.
He was quick to point out the folly in such an assertion.
“Turnup.Travel has had challenges like any other startup. But things are good because we are unique. We are not a jaza gari twende company.”
Boasting of lucrative travel packages within Nairobi or dream-come-true tours to locations such as Greece and Dubai, the company shows no signs of slowing down.
Turnup also does sports tourism, where they catered for wine tours to the Leleshwa Winery and vintage travel where they got to go aboard the now defunct Lunatic Express.
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Apart from that, they've ventured into more ways of getting millennials to travel with them due to how on the nose they get about travellers’ needs. It’s almost instinctual to Kinyamu and his team.
“You can’t just have the same tours. For us the challenge isn’t numbers. People who want to travel already know where they’re traveling to. So we go further and offer even more unique packages. Like biking in Kerio Valley or running in Karura Forest. We like to create new experiences and Kenyans love challenges.”
As a Bachelor of Commerce graduate, publicist, host of the Silicon Savannah tours, Metta ambassador- it’s now easy to add leading light in Kenya’s travel industry.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala, announced that the industry expects a 16% growth rate in 2018. After all wanderlust entrepreneurs- such as Kinyamu- have done to make travel that much more magical for Kenyans, such a spike in tourism revenue wouldn’t be too difficult to come by.