We caught up with 2018 Kenyan Hospitality Award nominees, TurnUp Travel Global. TurnUp Travel produces stunning photos and experiences across the diverse Kenyan landscape. Scrolling through their Twitter and Instagram feeds can give you serious travel FOMO! Staying true to their name, they give us a few tips as to how to turn up our travel experiences.
Tell us a little about yourselves and how TurnUp Travel come about? Where are you based?
TurnUp Travel is a tour operator and holiday concierge based in Nairobi, Kenya. It was co-founded by Muthuri Kinyamu and Brian Gatimu. Academically, we got trained in quite different fields. Muthuri in Marketing and Brian in Microbiology. We both, however, have an insatiable desire to travel and to share these experiences so that others can enjoy as well. We met in Mombasa at Voyager Beach Resort in September 2016. Muthuri was the team leader for the Magical Kenya Social Media Takeover team. They were on a tour across the country, in various destinations in Kenya. Brian Gatimu happened to be their photographer at that time and the resort was full so Muthuri and Brian had to share a room (shout out to room 4109).
We hit it off and it was a whirlwind weekend for us. We enjoyed it so much that we wanted to experience such a fun-packed trip again. Fast forward to January 25th 2017 and we decided to form a company and name it Turnup Travel, to embody our motto: #UnlimitedHolidays; that is: Travel the country (and continent) and have mad fun while at it. Our first group trip was to Watamu. We have never looked back ever since.
What inspired you to travel and document Kenyan landscapes and experiences? What motivates you to continue?
We firmly believe that Kenya has one of the best tourist products in the world, in terms of its irresistible weather, landscapes, wildlife, beach vibes and the sheer diversity in experiences. The world needs to see more of Kenya, there’s just so much to offer. We are motivated every day by the fact that we get to be part of a client’s unforgettable experience. There’s no better feeling than delivering an outstanding experience to them. Domestic tourism still has a long way to go. Simply put, no one can stop the travel FOMO. It is contagious, it is everywhere, and it is coming for you!
How do you keep the content exciting and fresh? How do you decide where or what to document next?
We love to pursue those relatively unknown stories about each location. So a good amount of research goes into each piece of content that we make. We have a production arm called Turnup in Motion where you can live vicariously through our adventures on Youtube. We also enlist the help of locals to give us juicy nuggets that will give our story-telling an edge. There’s not much decision-making that goes into where we document next. Every location has a story that is waiting to be told. It’s our job to extract it and package it.
What would you like your audience to take away from their interactions with you?
We would like them to understand first and foremost that travelling on a budget is not as elusive as it’s often made out to be. So we always try to factor in the journey to and fro in each episode. We also do our best to give off the impression that absolutely anyone is welcome to join our Turnup family. It’s not an exclusive club or anything of the sort. It’s a group of people who like to travel and have fun.
Any recommendations for must-see places? Top 3 most memorable experiences?
Definitely Watamu, Funzi Island, Kakamega Forest, Turkana County, and Samburu come to mind.
For Top 3 most memorable experiences, we’d have to start with Turkana. One of the most underrated destinations in Kenya. Seeing Central Island in Lake Turkana for the first time is our most cherished moment. Lake Turkana has sandy beaches as well that are quite isolated. You also won’t forget Turkana’s sunrises and sunsets.
Kisumu comes a close second. There was so much history in this place and we barely touched the surface. Visiting Kit Mikayi, learning about it from the locals and hiking to the top was our highlight during our trip there
Lamu is a location that will quite simply change your life. The pace of life, the friendly smiles and the exuberant Lamu Cultural Festival is a must-attend. And we did mention the sundowner cruise and seafood combo? Heaven! Shela is hard to leave. It’s charming!
Sometimes your trip doesn’t quite turn out how you expected it, do you have any travel fails to share?
For sure. There are always missteps, especially in the hospitality industry. We like to say we are on a crazy journey where the hard lessons come at you thick and fast. There was one trip to the Coast where we got short-changed by a travel agent based there. Long story short, we were promised a house with a pool for our clients but she ended up getting something that was way below standard and with no pool. The lesson there was: Take your time to scope the destination and different accommodation options before packaging it for clients. We also do familiarization trips to visit properties before we recommend them to our clients and invest resources in destination and product knowledge to ensure we consistently meet the diverse needs, preferences of our clients and tailor experiences to suit each and every client we serve
What challenges do you face when it comes to the current tourism industry? And how are you combatting them?
We have noticed that the majority of Kenyans don’t meticulously plan their holidays. It’s mostly impulsive and right before the holiday season. It’s difficult to get deals for clients when most places are almost booked up. We always encourage people to look at their holiday calendars and plan their getaways at least 2 months prior.
A second challenge is the seasonality of the industry. There are peak seasons for both bush and beach destinations and in low season, business might not be as good. To combat this, we have diversified our revenue streams as Turnup Travel. We are a tour operator, travel concierge, producers of digital content, team building and conference facilitators. This ensures we are always busy and we are always on our toes.
Any plans to expand travel into other African regions?
Without a doubt! We started with Kenya because charity begins at home. Our continent means a lot to us. It’s the motherland! Tourism is a huge catalyst for development and we plan on enacting change all across the continent, for our people. Because Africa is beautiful beyond our imagination and Africa is the future.
If you wish to make travel plans with Turn Up Travel contact them at [email protected]