Kenya urged to adopt ecotourism policy

NAIROBI, (PNA/Xinhua) –Kenya’s tourism sector umbrella body on Thursday called on the government to fast track an ecotourism policy.

Kenya Tourism Federation CEO Agatha Juma told journalists in Nairobi that the policy will enable the tourism sector to tap into the fast growing sector.

“The ecotourism policy will play a role in the diversification of the sector that is heavily reliant on wildlife and beach products,” Juma said during the launch of the Tourism Network.

The network aims to lobby and advocate for tourism issues with both the central and county governments. She said that policy will provide tourism investors with the necessary guidelines required to conserve the environment.

“It will ensure that tourist facilities are put up without straining the environment,” she said. The CEO said that the ecotourism policy is not just about conservation but utilization of the environmental resources in a sustainable manner.

She added that Brazil has established a robust eco-tourism sector as a result of implementing an ecotourism policy.

KTF Vice Chairman Adam Jillo said that absence of sound policy and planning policy could affect growth of the tourism sector. “Ecotourism is the fastest growing subsector of the industry,” Jillo said.

He said that policy will ensure that the communities near wildlife habitats benefit from tourists. “This is one way of reducing the human wildlife conflict,” Jillo said.

“It will also provide a framework to ensure the sector has a minimum carbon footprint,” he said. He noted that some wildlife ecosystems cut across national borders.

“The regulations will guide the private sector to navigate emerging challenges in the sector,” he said.

Kenya Association of Tour Operators CEO Fred Kaigwa said that Kenya should develop strategies to tap into domestic tourism. “The country’s growing middle class could act as a stabilizer sector especially during the low season,” he said

“This will reduce the reliance on foreign tourists,” he said.

Kaigwa said that Kenya is not perceived as being an attractive destination as a result of many insecurity incidences that have occurred in the recent past.

“So a strong ecotourism sector will help the sector overcome these challenges,” he said.

The CEO said that ecotourism policy will provide the structures for communities to participation.

He said that Kenya is also facing strong competition in attracting tourists especially from its neighbors. Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers CEO Mike Macharia said that the newly imposed Value Added Tax on tourism products could affect the competitiveness of the sector.

“Kenya should consider deferring the implementation of the tax just like Tanzania did,” Macharia said. He said that Kenya is a long haul destination and therefore depends on packaged tours.

“These tours are very sensitive to any price movements,” the CEO said. Eco Tourism Kenya Board Member Edith Bosire said that an eco-tourism policy will allow Kenya to zone the country in terms of flora and fauna.

“This will ensure that tourists’ facilities are put in place in manner that minimizes the environmental impact,” Bosire said. She said that eco tourists are conscious travelers.

“Their travel patterns are not significantly affected by government travel advisories compared to business and leisure tourists,” Bosire said.