xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxDeveloping sustainable ecotourism in KenyaSustainable tourism is tourism that leads to management of all resources without destroying the economic, social and aesthetic needs and maintains cultural integrity, important ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems. It is a process that satisfies the needs of a tourist and host communities while enhancing and protecting needs in the future. In this article I look at developing sustainable tourism in Kenya. Kenya is situated at the East coast of Africa and it covers an area of 586,350 Square kilometers. The largest contributor to her economy is agriculture followed by tourism.
Tourism in Kenya started long before she even gained independence. Early 1930, overseas visitors and explorers started visiting Kenya mainly for big game hunting expeditions referred locally as “Safari” a Swahili word (Kieti & Akama 2005). These visitors consisted of state’s men, royalties and celebrities like Theodore Roosevelt, Queen Elizabeth II and Earnest Hemingway. By that time, Kenya was already a well developed but limited tourism infrastructure. After independence the government realized the potential that tourism carried and started upgrading the infrastructure and investing in additional facilities.
It also encouraged local and international entrepreneurs to invest in the tourism and hospitality industry so as to pave way for future development of the sector. Despite the intense competition in this sector, Kenya is still one of the foremost tourist attractions because of its natural attraction comprising of wildlife in its natural habitats and spectacular beaches. The land set aside for conservation of wildlife and biodiversity is approximately 10%. Kenya has ubundant tourism resources including wildlife, beaches, excellent landscape ranging from coastal zones to high mountain peaks and deserts, a diversity of culture, archeological and historical resources spread all over the country.
Kenya has parks and reserves spread all over the country to protect its wildflife. Kenya wild life Service takes care of all wildlife resources and as direct management authority in the parks while the local authority councils manage the reserves exept Samburu and Simba hills reserves that are managed by KWS. However, 75% of wildlife resources are found outside the protected area systems and therefore there is a need to work with the communities living and interacting with these wildlife conservation. The Kenya leading tourist attractions are wildlife and those offering alternative attractions are not as popular with both local and foreign visitors.
As a matter of fact, the most popular parks and reserves are better known for their wildlife diversity which is the key selling point of Kenya tourism industry in general. Visitors both local and foreign always flock in parks like the Maasai Mara which is associated wit the “eighth wonder of the world”; the wild beast migration. Due to its popularity, there is an over development of tourism facilities like lodges and camping sites in and out of the park which heavily impacts the park due to increased vehicular traffic.
There are informal human modifications such as many trading centers sprouting at every gate to the park or lodge. For sustainable tourism in Kenya, there is a need to diversify to other wildlife resources such as forests, birds, buses and local cultures rather than predominately relying on wildlife. To enact this, spreading of tourist’s sites that possess other natural assets is required and will reduce environmental pressure and stress on the popular wildlife destinations which is brought by high number of visitors in this sites.
Opening up new areas like in western where Kakamega forest can be used and the modernization of Meru national park need to be addressed in the realization of sustainable tourism in Kenya.