The strategies for growing Kenya’s tourism industry are summed up in the Kenya Tourism Agenda 2018-2022 document.
The Kenya Tourism Agenda 2018 – 2022 establishes the foundation for the National Tourism Blueprint 2030. Its implementation during the 2018–2022 period ignites all the Blueprint components and actors and sets Kenya’s tourism on the path to sustainable growth for the tourism industry.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted the implementation of the Kenya Tourism Agenda with negative impact on the tourism and hospitality sectors. Recovery efforts in Tourism are now hinged on the Building Back Better: Strategy for Resilient and Sustainable Economic Recovery and Inclusive Growth developed by The National Treasury and Planning Ministry, which allocated KShs 23.1 billion to the Economic Recovery Strategy under the financial year 2021/22 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).
In 2021 President Uhuru Kenyatta launched a KShs 25 billion economic stimulus package to jump-start the economy and create jobs following a global lockdown that severely dented the tourism industry.
Although the 2021 stimulus package sought largely to boost sub-sectors that would quickly put money in people’s pockets – like tea, coffee, sugar and livestock – it was a follow-up to a similar stimulus in 2020 that saw tourism and wildlife sector receive a total of KShs 5 billion to provide soft loans for refurbishment of the tourism facilities through the Tourism Finance Corporation (TFC).
In addition, Kshs 1 billion went to 5,500 wildlife scouts under the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kshs 1 billion to the 160 wildlife conservancies in Kenya.
“The first and second stimulus packages were designed by my administration to ensure that our economy could endure shocks occasioned by the lockdown measures,” said President Kenyatta.
Kenya is placed at a strategic geographical location which creates immense opportunities for tourism investments. The country has one of the largest skilled human resources with majority of the workers with certification on tourism, this coupled with wide market access, and the quickly improving infrastructure, creates a positive environment for investing in Kenyan tourism.
The low-risk investments environment remains a plus for investors in the tourism industry. To make it more attractive the Government introduced tax incentives and favourable investment policies. To increase foreign and local investments, the Government provides the following fiscal and non-fiscal incentives:
- Guarantee against expropriating of private property which may occur for reasons of security or public interest for a fair and prompt compensation guaranteed.
- Repatriation of Capital and Profits guarantees: Capital repatriation, remittance of dividends and interest are guaranteed to foreign investors under the Foreign Investment Protection Act (FIPA) – CAP 518 after payments of applicable taxes.
- Other guarantees include- (membership) guarantees issues against non-commercial risk by Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), and of the Africa Trade Insurance Agency (ATIA).
- Custom Duty Exemption- to investors constructing or upgrading accommodation facilities – this will be done through recommendations by Tourism Regulatory Authority; exemptions will be on (washing machines, fridges and freezers, carpets, furniture etc.- The items must be engraved, printed or marked with the logo of the tourist hospitality establishment importing for its use.)
- Kenya constitution guarantees and respects property rights
- Kenya is a member to the International Centre for settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) which arbitrates cases between foreign investors and host governments.
- Corporation tax at 30 per cent or 25 per cent depending on the type of business
- Capital deduction: given on straight line- in respect of capital expenditure on hotel buildings at 70 per cent
- Kenya constitution guarantees and respects property rights
- Membership to multilateral investments Guarantee Agency (MIGA) insures investments against non-commercial risk.
Domestic travel supports and develops local and national economies, provides a rationale for infrastructure upgrading, disperses visitors geographically across regions and to under-visited rural areas, bridges the seasonality gap and creates employment opportunities.
A strong domestic travel and tourism sector can help a country withstand shocks and demand fluctuations that may arise when crises affect external source markets. To incentivise domestic travel, certain governments and local authorities have intervened in the provision of local tourism services.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic which decimated international tourism, KTB has developed new marketing campaigns to boost domestic tourism industry, launching the #TembeaKenya and #MagicalKenya hashtags to encourage Kenyans to explore their own country, with a special emphasis on national parks in the Maasai Mara, Mount Kenya, Amboseli and Tsavo areas.
Another initiative from the private sector is the Okoa Holiday initiative that allows one to go on vacation and pay later. All these efforts have increased the popularity of national parks and beach resorts, particularly for honeymoons and weddings.
Also contributing to the growth of domestic tourism is a growing middle class with more disposable income who can afford leisure travel. Other factors relate to the increased internet usage, given that most holiday travellers are influenced by digital platforms, mainly social media, search engines, online agents and blogs.
Currently, there are numerous firms in the tourism private space leveraging on the online space, targeting social media users through digital campaigns and building their brand.
Quality transport infrastructure enhances the experience of a destination and quality of life within it for both visitors and residents.
Dongo Kundu Bypass has made Diani more attractive for investors and eased traffic jams in Likoni The project that expanded and modernised Malindi Airport has enabled travel operators to book charter flights for tourists to the facility.
Meanwhile, the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) now links Lamu to Malindi, Mtwapa and Mariakani making it easier to connect to Diani, Ukunda, Kilifi and Malindi.
The Government has also intensified security in Coast. Many hotels were also able to weather the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to conferences and workshops by the national and county government officials.
The new KShs 350 million Mombasa Cruise Ship Terminal is another major boost for tourism, opening up the Coast for cruise ship tours, with tourists exploring Mombasa City and the nearby wildlife and marine parks, including Tsavo National Park.
The Terminal will enhance the passenger handling capacity of Mombasa Port and comprises duty-free shops, restaurants, conference facilities and offices for support private and Government support services.
It has given Kenya the ability to compete with South Africa, the Seychelles, Mauritius, Cape Verde and Zanzibar for cruise tourists. A recent survey carried out by the Tourism and Transport Consult International states that Mombasa could easily attract 140,000 passengers per year, putting it in on par with Cape Town, thanks to its dramatic coastline and strategic location on the Indian Ocean coast.
The national COVID-19 vaccination efforts by the Ministry of Health will also make Mombasa more attractive to cruise tourists as COVID-19 remains a real threat. Most major cruise lines have a vaccination mandate for passengers and crew prefer destinations with high vaccination rates and low infection numbers.
The Government has gazetted about 8 per cent of Kenya’s land mass as protected areas for wildlife conservation under the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) working with local and international investors.
These areas include forests, wetlands, savannah, marine, arid and semi-arid. The protected areas are 23 terrestrial National Parks, 28 terrestrial National Reserves, four marine National Parks, six marine National Reserves and four national sanctuaries.
KWS manages over a hundred field stations/ outposts outside the protected areas. As noted above protected areas in Kenya are categorized either as parks or reserves. The following are the branded national parks:
- Lake Nakuru National Park – a “Bird Watchers’ Paradise”
- Amboseli National Park – “Kilimanjaro Royal Court”
- Tsavo West National Park – “Land of Lava, Springs & Man-Eaters”
- Tsavo East National Park – the “Theatre of the Wild”
- Aberdares National Park – the “Majestic Peaks, Moorlands, Falls and so much more”
- Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park – “Home of the Dolphin and Coconut Crab”
- Ruma National Park – “Dramatic Valley of the Roan Antelope, Oribi and so much more”
- Malindi Marine Park – “Africa’s Oldest Marine Park, Magic Islands, Zebra Fish and so much more”
- Watamu Marine Park – “Haven for Green Turtle, Unique Coral Garden, Mida Creek and so much more”
- Nairobi National Park – “The World’s Only Wildlife Capital”
- Nairobi Safari Walk & Nairobi Animal Orphanage – “Refuges of the Wild”
- Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park – the “Ultimate Panoramic Experience”
- Mt. Elgon National Park – “Untamed Wilderness, Secluded Splendor”
- Kakamega Forest National Reserve- “Canopy of Natural Beauty”
- Meru National Park – “Complete Wilderness”
- Hells Gate National Park- “A Walk on the Wild Side”
- Mt Longonot National Park – “Sheer Adventure”
- Ndere Island National Park- “The Island of Serenity and Beauty”
- Kisumu Impala Sanctuary – “A Lakeshore Walk with the Impalas”
- Shimba Hills National Reserve – “Paradise of the Sable Antelope”
- Mt Kenya National Park – “Come touch the sky”
- Mombasa Marine National Park & Reserve – “The allure of Kenya’s coast”
KWS turns 75
In December 2021, President Uhuru Kenyatta led KWS staff and their families in celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the only national park in the world that is located within a city, the Nairobi National Park.
President Kenyatta noted that the celebrations were a reaffirmation of the Government’s commitment to preserving Kenya’s natural beauty and passing the same to future generations in pristine condition.
“Those that came before us made deliberate choices to balance rapid social and economic development with the conservation of our plant and animal life. Because of this foresight, Kenya today prides itself as having a thriving national park system, comprising 23 terrestrial and four marine national parks; 28 terrestrial and six marine national reserves as well as seven national nature sanctuaries,” the President said.
He asked the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife to implement the Management Plan for Nairobi National Park, “to ensure that the park serves humanity for posterity.”
Threats to Kenya’s wildlife conservation efforts remain, including poaching, habitat fragmentation and degradation, changes in land use, human encroachment and the adverse impact of climate change as well as the increasing levels of Human Wildlife Conflict, inadequate financing for conservation activities, lack of personnel, resources and equipment. To alleviate some of these challenges, the Government is increasing the National Budgetary Allocation to environment and wildlife conservation.
“As a Government, we are committed to eradicate poaching, and to end the illicit trade in wildlife. It is critically important to raise awareness, not just on the serious effects of wildlife crime, but also highlight the need to secure wildlife habitats. We have had an opportunity to increase this park by an additional 2,000 acres, and further expanded the corridor to the Swara International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) by increasing the space by a further 1,900 acres,” the President added.
President Kenyatta commended the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife and the Kenya Wildlife Service management, for the job they are doing in ensuring the conservation and protection of Kenya’s national parks and wildlife.
We remain committed to continuing to support KWS and its multiagency partners in their quest for completely eradicating poaching from our midst. It is very pleasing, for the last few years, to consistently get reports of increasing numbers, especially of the most endangered species,” he complimented.
The President urged MoTW and KWS to embrace new technological innovations to address wildlife challenges, particularly poaching. This will greatly improve efficiency and reduce costs, as well as provide avenues for local universities to contribute to this noble campaign.
The President looked forward to honouring Kenya’s youth who contributed to keeping parks clear of litter, as well as those in rural areas who have also taken steps to address Human Wildlife Conflict in their communities, and others who have used their talents and platforms to bring awareness to the need to conserve our natural beauty and wildlife.
“By highlighting this next generation of conservation heroes, we are not only providing them, and others, with an example that other young people can follow, but we also lay the foundation for a new generation of nature warriors who will take up the fight in years to come,” he added.
However, he wondered about the future of conservation in the face of burgeoning populations: with an estimated 100 million people in 2063, the president stressed the need to think outside the box in terms of preservation of our wildlife heritage.
Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Najib Balala, thanked the President for expanding space for wildlife by expanding Nairobi National Park’s boundaries by 2,000 acres to open up the southern Athi-Kapiti area, saying that all conservationists highly appreciated this gesture. The CS lauded KWS’ anti-poaching efforts, which saw zero rhinos and 11 elephants poached in 2020.
He stated that one rhino was poached in 2021 at Ruma National Park, but the poachers were immediately arrested and the trophy recovered.
“We have established 170 community conservancies across the country, because we value the wildlife that is beyond protected areas and recognize that communities play a major role by being the buffer zone around protected areas,” Balala said, reiterating that his ministry had created a conducive environment for partnerships with donors and NGOs.
He highlighted the success story of protecting endangered species, which had resulted in increased populations of rhinos and elephants, at 1,700 and 36,000 respectively.
Balala stated that the biggest conservation challenge was climate change and lauded the President for ably representing Kenya during COP26, where he committed to harnessing low-carbon investment opportunities. The CS committed to Net Zero (the state that exists when the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable energy is equal or equivalent to the amount of energy used) for energy in Nairobi National Park, stating that all of KWS vehicles and facilities domiciled in the parks would be ‘green.’
Balala appreciated the Government’s support during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that two billion shillings was provided to support community conservancy rangers’ salaries for the last two years, in addition to recruiting 5,500 Community Scouts to support conservation. He reiterated Kenya’s commitment to donating two black rhinos to that country, in exchange for 20 Roan antelopes to boost the 15-strong population in Ruma National Park.
KWS Director General Brig (Rtd.) John Waweru said that KWS was expending all efforts to ensure that Nairobi National Park retained its pristine condition. [PO1] Waweru said that COVID-19 wreaked havoc on foreigner-based tourism revenues, with KWS losing approximately 90 per cent of its revenue streams. The silver lining to the pandemic was that KWS innovated ideas to focus inwards, and through the ZuruNaKWS campaign and other initiatives like the Tembo Naming Festival in Amboseli, local tourist numbers skyrocketed and kept KWS afloat.
Three local graphic designers who came up with Nairobi National Park’s new logo were feted, with the winner receiving 250, 000 shillings and two runners up receiving 150,000 and 100,000, respectively. Balala said this would spill over into other parks, with locals being granted opportunities to participate in branding other KWS parks.
The commemoration concluded with the cutting of a sumptuous, 75th anniversary cake.