Businesses in Kericho town and neighbouring trading centres have greatly benefitted from the ongoing Kenya Inter-Counties Sports and Cultural Association (Kisosca) games as thousands of sports enthusiasts, players and politicians have thronged the region for the seventh edition.
The games kicked off on Monday at Kericho Green Stadium with Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya presiding over the opening ceremony in the company of governor Paul Chepkwony whose county are the hosts, Kisii Governor James Ongwae, and his Siaya counterpart Cornel Rasanga.
Hotel and lodging operators have hiked prices by over 100 per cent as they seek to make a kill from the week-long competition.
Rooms were fully booked by Monday mid-day with those that usually charge Sh1,500 raising it to Sh3,500 while others that ordinarily charge Sh1,000 pushing it to Sh2,000.
“It was difficult getting a room for Sh1,500 which I could hardly raise, but I eventually found one at Kapsoit trading centre,” said Henry Ojwang from Kisumu County.
Most of the rooms were booked two weeks in advance in anticipation of a serious shortage since Kericho is a small town compared to Eldoret, Kisumu and Nakuru.
Mohamed Juma from Mombasa county said he was enjoying the cold and humid weather in the area adding that he would consider returning to South Rift for holidays in the near future.
“The food here, especially fruits and vegetables is very fresh as compared to the refrigerated stuff we are used to in Mombasa due to the heat,” said Juma saying it was his first time to physically see and feel tea bushes.
Kericho and Bomet counties – which initially were one district – are known for the picturesque tea estates which stretch for several kilometres.
Irene Kamau from Nyeri county was impressed by the fact that the people are warm, welcoming and the minimal cases of criminal activities reported in the course of the games.
“The cases we have had are those of misplaced items, but we have not encountered robberies or burglaries,” said Kamau.
Chepkwony on Monday stated that security had been beefed up ahead of the games.
Small scale traders, boda boda and taxi operators are also reaping from the games due to the heavy human traffic moving from one field to the other and from their hotel rooms to various venues.
“Business has been good for the last four days because we have been charging Sh100 from the usual Sh50 to various places in the outskirts of the town,” said Kibet Langat, a boda boda rider.
Celestine Anyango, who had set up a food kiosk at Kericho Teachers Training College which hosted football and handball games, said she expects to make better sales on Friday when athletics competition kicks off with ball games coming to a close.
But the partying mood has been dampened by lack of salaries and allowances among players as a result of the spat between National Assembly on one side and the Senate and Council of Governors on one side over Division of Revenue Bill.
“We have not received our salaries and allowances. We have been asked to spend our own money then get a reimbursement later. It's quite a challenge and most of us have had to make do with borrowed money,” said a player from Bomet County who did not want to be named.
Oparanya Monday revealed that the the Council of Governors had resolved to change its calendar for the games from August to October as a result of the cash crunch facing counties mid-year due to transition from one financial year to the other.