Integritour’s Blue-Sky Blog: The new home of Kisumu & Kenyan Adventures

Welcome to the Integritour blog,   the new site to catch up on all our news, adventures, new products, opinions and team stories….  plus the trials and tribulations of setting up a tour business in Kisumu, Western Kenya.  (This week they include drunk office contractors, burning lorries being driven down main high street and roof-top strategy sessions). We promise not to spam, bore or sell to you, just enlighten you about daily-life and the many wonderful charms of this region, plus provide opinion, anecdotes and entertaining updates on the story of (we hope!) our growth.  There’s never a dull week at Integritour,  so  please sign up and enjoy the ride.

A suit on Lake Victoria - a rare sight indeed

A suit on Lake Victoria - a rare sight indeed

At the end of the day, in an age of blue sky thinking, touching-base and thinking outside of the box, the Integritour team decided to come together this week to brainstorm and indulge in some 360-degree-thinking about how, as a business we can proactively push the envelope.  (source – Telegraph Online ‘Most despised business jargon’)   If the last 6 months have taught me anything, it’s that such business jargon and pretension simply does not apply or translate here in Kisumu.   In many respect things are much simpler: no professional class ‘status-anxiety’ or culture of self-styled (self-congratulatory) ‘entrepreneurialism’, just simple execution of simple ideas – see a need, fill it, create jobs and graft until you get somewhere.  Opportunity is everywhere you look and start-up costs low but investment lacking in this, the most overlooked and tribally discriminated-against region of Kenya.    The challenges, as I’m rapidly learning, are very different – with Kenyan small-business a minefield of corruption, racial/ tribal discrimination, poor service and skill-shortage.

BUT, there’s one blue sky practice from business in the West that we have embraced here at Integritour in giving a great deal of thought to our business vision and mission.  This week, as a treat, and over a relatively expensive Western lunch (which was frankly not appreciated by my Kenyan colleagues – ‘where’s the ugali?’ (the stodgy carb staple here))  our new team met for our ‘strategy session’ on the Duke of Breeze roof top bar.  (The bar, with its free wireless, has become our temporary office, whilst we await the completion of the work on our office downstairs in the lobby).   We discussed the reasons why we’re here and what we hope to achieve over the coming year with the output as follows:

Our vision: To revolutionise travel in Kenya and open up Western Kenya to travellers seeking authentic, life-changing and amazingVillage children in Western Kenya African travel experiences.

Our mission is 3 fold:  1) to extend the international perception of Kenya from a 2D safari/ beach destination to a 3D safari/beach/community destination – where the ‘community’ element is spent in Western Kenya in real communities, appreciating diverse eco-systems from lake to jungle to tea-plantation, rice plantation or mountain.  2) To get more Kenyans discovering and experiencing the very best of Western Kenya –so promoting better cross-tribal understanding  3) Combating some of the economic and social challenges of Western Kenya through better marketing, an increased volume of visitors, job creation and profit-share with local communities & NGOs.

And how will we do this?  (and herewith, the customer ‘pitch’): By offering responsibly-organised tours and packages across Kenya and East Africa, but specialising in Western Kenya – an area traditionally ignored by mainstream operators.   The region suffers from high unemployment, poor nutrition, high rates of HIV infection and very poor infrastructure (particularly roads & transport, schools and health-centres) – and YET, it is a region of outstanding and diverse natural beauty and the most friendly, fascinating communities.   Integritour will show guests the best of all this at a price that not only won’t break the client’s bank account, but will add much-needed funds to the bank accounts of local community groups and NGOs.

For heart thumping experiences, try trekking the Kericho tea plantations, vine swinging in Kakamega rainforest, crocodile tracking or kayaking on Lake Victoria or maybe just standing up in front of class of 90 village kids leading a rousing rendition of ‘heads, shoulders, knees and toes’…. ?

Fisherman on Lake VictoriaFor sheer beauty let us take you out on Lake Victoria at sunrise to weave between the hippos and fishing dhows, to the islands to experience white-sand beaches and noisy nesting colonies of 10s of 1000s of lake birds or up to the highest point in Kakemega for views stretching across the monkey-filled rainforest canopy.

For mind expansion, maybe immerse yourself in a day in the life of a local Luo village, meet people in their homes and visit local health centres, schools and community groups or take a guided walking tour of the slum or street market or perhaps just tax your brain by attempting to remember  the names of some of the 100s of bird species in the region, as pointed out by our ornithological experts.

To give back and contribute, let us donate, on your behalf, through the cost of your experience to the communities that we work with and where our staff come from.  You can also ask us about volunteering opportunities should you wish to get even more involved

All we need now is our first office from which we can spread the word.  We’re nearly there (hmm… ish, maybe, we hope).   We’re

Integritour Office-in-progress

office.... (admittedly doesn't look like much yet..)

gutting a small 200 sq ft space in the lobby of Dukes of Breeze – with the intention of smartening it up, but the foreman’s hired-labour turned up drunk twice this week (those that bothered to turn up at all), and so works are running a little behind schedule.   It also appears ‘simple’ decor is not an option here in Kenya – with the current trends reminiscent of British furnishing in the 70s & 80s – chintzy, fussy, patterned browns and pastels.  How hard would you think it would be to find simple black and white tiles to create a chess-board floor effect?  Impossible (although interestingly, for this bride-to-be, the tile shop specialised in floor/ wall tiles AND wedding dresses.  Why these two very specific product-lines, I have no idea.  I surely must be the only person in Western Kenya, if not East Africa in the market for both).   (Also, as another aside, whilst out shopping for furniture this weekend, I was somewhat alarmed to see a huge lorry trundling down the road ablaze, literally – totally engulfed in flames about 10M high.  It was driving to the fire station which I thought was quite considerate of the driver.  The whole of Kisumu was screaming and running down the road after it in excitement until the fire engine came and dealt with it.  A bit surreal, but that’s daily life in Kisumu for you).

So, anyway, watch this space.  Office updates and photos to come.  We do hope you’ll be interested in sharing in our learnings, experiences and musings on this blog as we grow Integritour.  We may not have chosen an easy road; it will, in all likelihood be as metaphorically potholed and uncomfortable as the road we take our clients to Masai Mara on – but hopefully it will result in a similar outcome – a once in a lifetime experience for all those involved.

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