More tourists are flocking to Kenya,dismissing fears of potential election violence

More tourists are arriving in the country despite heightened anxiety ahead of the August 8 elections

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Kenyans will be heading to the polls on August 8 and there has been heightened anxiety in the build-up to the elections.

The country’s polls are often viewed as a tense and fraught occasion but this has not deterred tourists from flocking the country in large numbers specifically for the wildebeest migration.

The number of tourists arriving in the country to witness the spectacle has risen over the past few weeks, a clear indication that they are dismissing fears of potential violence during the elections.

Hoteliers and tour operators are reporting near full capacity, as the safari-lovers hope to witness the hundreds of thousands of wildebeests cross the Mara river in search of greener pastures on the Kenya-Tanzania border.

"We are having a near full capacity in terms of business through the months of July and August," said Kenya Tourism Board communications manager Wausi Walya.

Mahmud Janmohamed, chief executive of TPS Eastern Africa , which operates a safari lodge with views of the migration route, said bookings for this month were similar to last year and slightly up in August.

"We haven't witnessed any cancellations or any challenges," he said, saying nervousness over the poll was being balanced by expectations that any electoral disputes could be resolved in court, not in the streets.

Federation members were reporting healthy bookings, with inland safaris faring particularly well.

"I would comfortably say we are 20-25 per cent higher than last year," said Mohamed Hersi, chairman of the Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF).

He was however quick to note that tour operators are not being complacent as any potential election violence could lead to cancellation of the bookings.

“If we start hitting the news headlines for the wrong reasons, then they will cancel. But so far, they don't care if you hold elections or whether you don't," Hersi said.

The Wildebeest migration is one of the world's most spectacular natural events - with over a million wildebeest, zebra and antelope migrating clockwise around the Serengeti-Maasai Mara ecosystem every year.

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