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Ecotourismin Kenya

Therise of the appreciation towards wildlife and safari in Kenya hasattracted many tourists from different parts of the world. In 2011,the tourists’ numbers reached a peak of 1.8 million visitors andthe international tourist arrivals in 2013 were 1.49 million.However, the mass tourism in Kenya has caused a threat to theenvironment and local culture while the lack of capital andgovernment support is taken place. In 2001, 43 species of mammals and24 birds’ species were endangered. Hence, Kenya Government at thistime is suggested to provide an adequate fund in terms of improvingwildlife habitats, building strong infrastructure networks and fixingsecurity issues.

Thetourism industry earned Ksh. 73.68 billion in 2010.1It also has a community-based ecotourism where it has closerelationships with the residents and they strive to protect theenvironment together by all means. Moreover, Kenya is rich inbiological diversity, ~1100 species of birds have been recorded, andmore than 60 sites have been identified as important bird areas.Although 91% of the 22 important birds are classified as, protectareas, 77% of these sites are severely or critically threatened.2It is estimated that Kenya lost half of its elephants during the late90s, the reason behind it is the violation of the poaching rules eventhough elephant hunting is prohibited for 40 years already. Moreover,Issues such as drought, water pollution, and deforestation that Kenyais receiving has raised the awareness of the public and called foractions.

Inall, Kenya government ought to seek for financial aid fromorganizations within its ability to alter the current situation thatit is facing. Adequate funds not only help the environmentalsustainability but preserving the indigenous culture. What’s more,the government should be engaged in movements for promotingsustainable agriculture, and environmental education. The act wouldbenefit not only the wildlife but promote the human rights themovements would benefit Kenya as a country and receiving moretourists as well. One of the weaknesses requires a lot of effort andtime to be put in. Other than this, different projects such asinfrastructure construction require a large amount of labor force anddetailed work. Last but not the least, while reaching the goals withthe funds, it is important for Kenya government to practicesustainable tourism and cater to not only indigenous people’s needsbut the tourists.

Securingthe conservation of native culture and its fortune is vital toKenya’s future in many aspects such as its economic development andits place in the world. Establishing accountability and contributingto the development can only happen when it is broadly executed. Thewide variety of wildlife species in Kenya expects to be growing whenthe equity and security are ensured. In all, there are many aspectsthe government needs to dwell on and devote to providing betterenvironment and culture attractions.


Thebirth and growth of tourism as an international business in Kenya andSub-Saharan nations is a most recent phenomenon. The origins ofmodern mass tourism can be traced to the prosperity of the developedand more industrialized nations particularly North America andWestern Europe. More recently, Japan has also become one of theaffluent nations in the world. Besides, there has been a significantexpansion of international tourism in Eastern Europe, which isquickly becoming a crucial sector in lots of the developing countriesin Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the South Pacific and Latin.3

InKenya, tourism was initially founded in the colonial period as aleisure-oriented activity only reserved for the Europeans. Bearing inmind that they perceived themselves economically, socially andculturally equipped for the leisure activities, they also reservedthe rights to undertake entrepreneurship for the white settlers,thereby no other persons were allowed to partake of the “Europeanhedonocracy.” At the time, tourism was the “white hunter” brandof independent adventurers with clientele mainly comprising ofsettlers from other regions of the East African region, SouthernAfrica, England and Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe). Other minorsources of tourists included North America, Asia, and oil units inSaudi Arabia and Yemen. Small family hotels situated in Nairobi, thecapital and other towns all over the country were used in hosting thetourists during their visits. It was different for those who wenthunting, though, because due to lack of game lodges, they were forcedto camp in the forests. The tours and hunting exploits were arrangedby experienced bush and game trackers, a duty that was also preservedfor the white man. At the time, though, organized tourism was majorlyinhibited by the lack of adequate accommodation facilities andreliable means of transport.4

Thesituation experienced a major shift in the 1940s when the settlersbegan laying a foundation to develop a modern tourism industry. A fewyears earlier, a major railway line dubbed the Kenya-Uganda Railwayhad been completed, and this had linked the major towns of Mombasa,Port Beel, and Entebbe. The inclusion of feeder tracks had enhancedthe possibilities of tourism due to improved internal mobility thatmade it easier for tourists to access various destinations. In the1950s, further, development saw the introduction of the Boeing 707 aswell as the jumbo jet aircraft. This step revolutionized travel byreducing travel time and doubling the carrying capacity. Alongsideimproved organization and management of commercial air travel, theadvancement in technology played a significant role in positivelyinfluencing Kenyan tourism. 5

Atthis stage, the State began playing a significant role in developinginfrastructure and providing services that specifically favored thetourism industry. This was especially upon recognizing that tourismprovided an alternative to the declining production in agriculture.Another landmark was achieved in 1958 with the creation of Ministryof Tourism and Wildlife. At independence, the new Kenyan governmentinherited an industry that had seen close to two decades of carefulnurturing, particularly in infrastructure and structure (Kimathi,2013, p.5).

Accordingto 1972 statistics from the World Bank, lots of developing nationshad tourism as one of the top foreign exchange earners, with domesticgross receipts amounting to more than 20 percent of the totalmerchandise exports value. At the time, a majority of the countrieswere facing uncertain global market prospects for their basicproducts, further reinforced by the strict limitations imposed on thelevels of manufactured exports that the developed nations werewilling to accept. The country accepted tourism as an economic boonand an important asset to the economy of the nation. This could beillustrated by analyzing the various development plans over theyears. For instance, the 1997- 2002 Five Year National DevelopmentPlan saw the government of the day spells out an ambitious expansionplan that entailed utilizing a substantial segment of the publicbudget. On a positive note, though, the contributions made to thenational economy courtesy of the tourism sector cannot beunderestimated. Over time, Kenya’s economic backbone which had fora long time been held by the agricultural sector started dwindling inincome generation. Since 1987, the country experienced a switch inrevenue sources when foreign exchange earnings rose to account forapproximately 10 percent of the country’s GDP.6

GeographicalContext of Eco-tourism in Kenya

Alarge section of the Kenya’s tourism sector is centered onadventures and safaris to the great Game Reserves and National Parksdonning the country. However, Kenya is also home to major culturalaspects found in the coast region including beaches along the IndianOcean, Gedi ruins, the Fort Jesus and the various marine nationalparks. Defined as the responsible travel to natural areas thatpreserve the environment as well as minding the welfare of the localcommunities, ecotourism has been growing in the country at a rate of10-15 percent per annum. This has attracted tourists to the 65national parks and reserves operated by the KWS (Kenya WildlifeService). The parks occupy an approximate 10 percent of the totalland mass. Some of the major parks and reserves in the countryinclude Amboseli National Park, Mount Kenya National Park, NairobiNational Park and Nakuru National Park. The image below shows thevarious game parks and reserves in the Kenya.7

Theintroduction of programs to conserve and manage the Kenyan nationalparks in addition to the increased awareness brought about by tourismhas been beneficial to the country. However, there has also been agradual decline in the population of wildlife in the national parks.While tourism is not considered the sole reason behind biodiversityand decline in wildlife populations, it is a major contributor. Thedevelopment and growth of tourism have been characterized by thepresence of tourists, vehicles, and lodges within the animals’natural habitat.8This has greatly impacted their behaviors, for instance, the annualGreat Migration of the wildebeests is unpredictable. Leopards hunt atnight, in contrast to their normal daytime hunting, as they try tokeep away from the noise created by tourists and their entourages.Such entourages can often be sighted crowding groups or individualanimals, always affecting their natural behavior. Altered patternsand behaviors may affect the ecosystem, for instance, lions andleopards may suffer a shortage of food due to delayed wildebeestmigration. Scarring of the terrain by tour vehicles, disruption ofmigratory routes by paved roads, emission of greenhouse gasses bytour vehicles and construction of lodges near watering holes andbreeding grounds have been cited as some of the effects of tourism onecotourism. Others include inadequate infrastructure that has led tothe discharge of waste and sewage from lodges into surrounding areas.

Fig2. Map showing the game parks and reserves in Kenya

Itis therefore critical for stakeholders to ensure the balance betweentourism and the ecosystem.9


Tourismin the country produces enormous economic benefits, the greatest ofwhich is its contribution to the overall tourism revenue. Based onthe high revenue levels attributed to national parks, it has been anassumption that the major motivation behind visiting Kenya is thenational parks. However, they also get to spend money elsewhere,translating to the distribution of income among different players,for instance, accommodation, transport and purchasing of souvenirsfrom local traders among others. The tourism industry generatesmassive job opportunities to local communities, both formal andinformal jobs.10The people are employed at the national parks, the game resorts andby contracting travel agencies. This further contributes to thegrowth of towns where local communities engage in trade and earnextra income that improves their standards of living. With improvedliving standards, communities live a much more meaningful, and areeven able to offer proper education to their children in institutionsthat may be outside their regions.11

Asearlier stated, improvement of infrastructure was one of the majorfactors that contributed to the growth and development of tourism incolonial Kenya. Currently, additional improvements to infrastructurehave further increased tourism, which has, in turn, led to majorsocioeconomic benefits that include the growth of schools/ education,medical facilities, access to markets for trade opportunities ofagricultural produce and manufactured products. A most crucial aspectis the impact on assets, whereby natural capital has been enhancedwith the establishment of funding for education, emergency grazingland, raised human capital and increased access to physical capital.12

Basedon extensive research, Kenya has continued to be one of the mostdeveloped markets in the continent, despite the recent constantterror threats that have tainted its image to potential visitors.However, the government and the KTB (Kenya Tourism Board), inconjunction with other public and private stakeholders have not takenthis lying down. Efforts are being made at reviving the industry andrestoring Kenya to its former tourism glory. This has seen the entryof major brands into the country, while the existing ones continue toexpand in the market.13

Traditionally,Europe has been considered the major source of tourist market inKenya. Lately, the various stakeholders have made efforts todiversify the market sources by promoting the country’s tourismresources to regional markets and domestic travelers. This willcompensate for the dwindling numbers of overseas tourists. Otherefforts are also being made to establish direct flight links tovarious destinations such as the United States. In playing its part,the hotel industry is continually growing and expanding itsoperations in spite of the saturation in the hotel industry. Theluxury accommodation sector, for instance, has seen tremendous growthparticularly by the major international chains that have put up shopin the central business district of the country’s capital, Nairobi.Much lower cost chains are spreading their operations outside of thecapital city, and this has gone a long way in increasing domestictourism. The following forecast report was carried out by anindependent researcher. It shows the expected growth (estimates/forecasts) in Kenya’s tourism players for the period between 2014and 2020 (BMI Research).

Figure2: Tourism growth forecasts 2014 – 2020








Hotel and restaurant value (KESbn)








Hotel and restaurant industry value, %








Hotel and restaurant industry vale (USDbn)








Hotel and rest. industry value USDbn,% yoy








International tourism rcpts. USDbn








Intenational tourism rcpts. USDbn % yoy








Int. tourism receipts KESbn








Int. tourism receipts KESbn, % yoy








Total arrivals ‘000

1, 337.3

1, 230.3






Total arrivals ‘000, % yoy









TheKenyan government has always been on the frontline in efforts madetowards growing and sustaining the tourism industry. With eco-tourismbeing the fastest growing sector in the tourism industry, its effecton the political structure of the country cannot be overemphasized.In essence, there is a directly related link between the two. Kenya,in the last decade, has gone through two major presidential electionsthat have seen massive negative effect on the tourism sector. In2007/08 election, the country experienced post-election violence thatcaused lots of deaths, injuries and displacements of citizens.Needless to say, there was an outburst of travel advisories againstvisiting the country from the most lucrative market sources. Thiscost the country heftily in terms of tourist revenues for the yearsthat followed. The second presidential elections held in 2012/ 2013saw a new president take the helm, though not without a share oftourism losses. Prior to the elections, the international communityand media were cautious about visiting the country, a factor that didnot augur well with the industry14

Actsof terror that have seen the international community questionsecurity, one of the major functions of government have skyrocketedin the recent past. Unfortunately, some of the attacks have targetedthe major tourist destinations in the country including Mombasa andNairobi. As a result, the ability of the government to protectcitizens and visitors has repeatedly been questioned, a factor thathas also led to dwindling numbers in the visitors coming into thecountry. However, this has only increased the efforts of thegovernment at ensuring that the image of the country is reinstated.In the last 3 years of the present government through the Ministry ofTourism has been strengthened financially, politically and socially.This has seen improvements done in major tourist attraction siteswhile marketing initiatives have been taken a notch higher to informand assure potential visitors of the safe and beautiful country thatis called Kenya. In addition to this, infrastructure has beenimproved by enhancing road, rail and air transport that improvesaccessibility to different locations. Incentives to encouragedomestic tourism have been put in place by the government to ensurethat the country does not only rely on foreign tourists for income.Political and government leaders have taken upon themselves theinitiative to visit different countries to personally persuadecitizens to visit, and also invest in the country15


Asearlier stated, the traditional source of the Kenyan tourism marketis Europe, though this has largely widened its scope to includeAmericans, Asians, and even Indians. This means that tourism was, andstill is largely dominated by foreigners, people from a culturallydifferent background. While the dynamic nature of culture is clearlyunderstood, tourism has played a great role in diluting andinfluencing the cultures and languages of the local inhabitants.Often, local people have the perception that foreigners are richerand more sophisticated than they are, and this is bound to createsome form of inferiority complex that drives them to imitate them andtheir ways. Some of the effects of imitation are negative includingengaging in drug use, prostitution, and other anti-social behavior.In order to make money and get rich like the tourists they see, somechildren even drop out of school to either engage in legal trade,sometimes illegal trade. Immorality has certainly been a majorimpact, where locals have taken up “jobs” as escorts to sexuallyentertain tourists when they visit their localities for economicgain. On a more positive note, the locals could advance their skillsby learning foreign languages, way of life and after that empowerthemselves economically and socially. This has mainly beenexperienced alongside the Kenyan Coast.

Otherregions that act as tourist attraction sites include the Northernregion of Kenya, inhabited by Turkana, and the Eastern regioninhabited by the Maasai. These are two of the 42 Kenyan tribes thathave preserved their cultural heritage over the ears, despite themassive western influence that has engulfed the rest of the country.The two also happen to receive a large number of foreign tourists whocome to sample the rich African heritage. While the Coast inhabitantsare known for their largely westernized ways, and their tendency toengage in immoral behavior, the Turkana and Maasai communities areknown for their good, upright and traditional behavior. This can beattributed to the family values that have continually been handeddown the generations to ensure preservation. Values, norms, andbeliefs form the culture of people, and are crucial for thepreservation of the identities of people, region or country. The roleof culture in tourism is that it attracts people from all over theworld to experience it16

Recommendations&amp Policies

TheKenyan government may seek financial aid from organizations andcountries to alter its current situation. Adequate funds will help inenvironmental sustainability and at the same time in the preservationof the indigenous culture. Besides, movements aimed at promotingsustainable agriculture should be undertaken. These will also assistthe country’s citizens by providing environmental education. Thisseries of actions would benefit the wildlife, and promote humanrights. As a country, Kenya will benefit from more tourists, thushave the benefit of increased income and improved standards for theeconomy. While the financial and economic stability is crucial forthe conception and implementation of policies the country also needsto come with regulations that will promote and practice sustainabletourism. The measures should apply to tourists as well as indigenousKenyans.


Bennun,L., and P. Njoroge. &quotImportantbird areas in Kenya, East African Natural History Society, Nairobi.&quot(1999).

Caballero,Cascante. Thepolitical factors influencing tourism (Kenya). Retrievedon 12thOctober 2012 fromhttp://www.slideshare.net/waltercascantecaballero/the-political-factors-influencing-tourismkenya

Cheung,Hubert. &quotTourism in Kenya`s national parks: A cost-benefitanalysis.&quot Studiesby Undergraduate Researchers at Guelph6, no. 1 (2012): 31-40.

Elhadi,Yazan Ahmed Mohamed. &quotCHALLENGES FACING ECOTOURISM IN KENYA.&quot(2012).

Habel,Jan Christian, Mike Teucher, Ronald K. Mulwa, Wolfgang Haber, HildeEggermont, and Luc Lens. &quotNature conservation at the edge.&quotBiodiversityand Conservation25, no. 4 (2016): 791-799.

Kimathi,Teddy. Tourism,and its Positive and Negative Contribution in Kenya.GRIN Verlag, 2013.

Munene,Karega, Lotte Hughes, and Annie E. Coombes. &quotManaging Heritage,Making Peace: History, Identity and Memory in Contemporary Kenya.&quot(2014).

Ondicho,T. G. (2000). International tourism in Kenya: Development, problemsand challenges. EasternAfrica Social Science Research Review,16(2),49-70.

VanHarssel, Jackson. National Geographic Learning’s Visual Geographyof Travel and Tourism. Cengage Brain, 2014.

  1. BMI Research.Kenya Tourism Report. Retrieved on 1th October 2016 from http://store.bmiresearch.com/kenya-tourism-report.html

  2. Coombes, Annie E., and Lotte Hughes. Managing heritage, making peace: history, identity and memory in contemporary Kenya. IB Tauris, 2013.

1 Elhadi, Yazan Ahmed Mohamed (Challenges Facing Ecotourism In Kenya, 2012), 21.

2 Bennun, L. and P. Njoroge (Important bird areas in Kenya, East African Natural History Society: Nairobi, 2011). 16.

3 Coombes, Annie E., and Lotte Hughes (Managing heritage, making peace: history, identity and memory in contemporary Kenya, IB Tauris, 2013). 25

4 Ondicho, T. G. (2000). International tourism in Kenya: Development, problems and challenges. Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review, 16(2), 50

5 Coombe and Hughes, 33

6 Kimathi, Teddy (Tourism, and its Positive and Negative Contribution in Kenya. GRIN Verlag, 2013), 23

7 Kimathi, 10.

8 Habel, Jan Christian, Mike Teucher, Ronald K. Mulwa, Wolfgang Haber, Hilde Eggermont, and Luc Lens. &quotNature conservation at the edge.&quot Biodiversity and Conservation 25, no. 4 (2016): 795.

9 Cheung, Hubert. &quotTourism in Kenya`s national parks: A cost-benefit analysis.&quot Studies by Undergraduate Researchers at Guelph 6, no. 1 (2012): 32

10 Caballero, Cascante. The political factors influencing tourism (Kenya). Retrieved on 12th October 2012 from http://www.slideshare.net/waltercascantecaballero/the-political-factors-influencing-tourismkenya

11 Studies by Undergraduate Researchers at Guelph, 36

12 Studies by Undergraduate Researchers at Guelph, 31

13 Studies by Undergraduate Researchers at Guelph, 35

14 Studies by Undergraduate Researchers at Guelph, 37

15 Studies by Undergraduate Researchers at Guelph, 34

16Studies by Undergraduate Researchers at Guelph, 40

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