Kenya plans to diversify tourism, curb poaching
NAROK?- The Kenyan government plans to diversify tourism products and improve other infrastructure requirements to attract high-value tourism such as business conferences and conventions.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said his government was also providing the necessary incentives to harness the huge potential in both the East African region and the East to realize the targeted 5 million tourists annually. “We are wooing more tourists from China and if we manage to convince 1 percent of China’s 1.3 billion people, the country will realize its annual targets,” Kenyatta said at the world famous Masai Mara Game Reserve on Saturday. Kenya is a popular destination especially for tourists from Europe. The country is known for its great variety of wildlife, which includes elephants, giraffes, wildebeests, lions, cheetahs and leopards.
Kenyatta pointed out that the government had embarked on diversification through exploration of non-traditional countries in the East to promote the country’s tourist attractions. According to the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), the Chinese market grew by 10 percent to record over 41 303 visitors in 2012. According to the ministry of tourism, India is the leading inbound market for Kenya among the Asian countries. The 4 percent growth over 2011 is attributed to the fact that Indians have more disposable income and are seeking new destinations and experiences, according to KTB. The tourism marketing body entered into a one-year joint marketing programme aimed at boosting tourist arrivals into the country.
Kenyatta who toured the Masai Mara Game Reserve spelt out various measures the government is taking to promote Kenya as a final tourist destination. He said that the tourism sector’s linkages with many other sectors provide great potential to generate employment and create wealth for Kenyans. The president said leaders in the EAC are discussing a tourist visa that would enable tourists to visit all the member states. He said the new wildlife act provided harsher penalties for poachers, so as to curb the menace that threatens elephants and other endangered animal species.
Poachers target especially rhinos and elephants for their tusks and skins, which fetch a lot of money in the black market. The bill will provide a comprehensive institutional framework for managing wildlife, human wildlife conflict, and compensation and ensure that wildlife is beneficial to those who live with the wildlife. The law proposes severe punishment for poachers and promotes people-led wildlife conservancy efforts. The proposed Wildlife Bill has also recommended severe sentences for poachers since poaching will be dealt with as organized crime under the law.
President Kenyatta also said KWS is being strengthened to effectively deal with poachers and other ivory trade. Kenya is among countries in Africa where poaching is rampant. Kenyatta said the move will enable people to appreciate game as a source of revenue and therefore minimize human and wildlife conflicts. The president, who was conducted on a game drive, held separate interviews with CCTV, China Daily, Xinhua news agency and local journalists on Kenya’s tourism policy. Fielding questions from the local and Chinese journalists, the president said the annual wildebeest migration is unique and cannot be replicated anywhere in the world. He thanked both the local and international media for exposing the wildebeest phenomenon to the world and hence attracting more tourists to the country. The country’s tourism has suffered a decline in the number of tourists arriving since September 2011, when the Somali militant group al-Shabaab carried out kidnappings of tourists in the Lamu archipelago.