Balala seeks privatisation of game parks, tourism outfits

World Marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge with Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala at the Nairobi National Park on January 8, 2021. [Robin Toskin]

The government has hinted at a new model of business for the tourism sector which might see convention centres, national parks and game reserves managed by private agencies.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, while addressing the European Union Green Diplomacy Webinar yesterday, said the sector cannot run the business as usual owing to the pandemic.

He said the industry has learnt more from Covid-19, which should inform changes on its business models. “The pandemic has taught us lessons. We have woken up to a new reality that we must change. Nobody is left out and anybody going to open up after the pandemic must be refreshed,” he said.

The CS said the sector was eyeing new investments and exploring fresh business models that will ease entry into new markets and reduce operating costs as part of the transformative agenda to revitalise the business. “Why is everything being done by one entity? Why don’t we outsource?” he posed.

Mr Balala noted that public-private partnerships offer good examples of how this new model can work - even questioning why the State still manages key facilities.

“Why does the government run a convention bureau or facility? Why don’t we outsource and make it more efficient,” he asked.

“Why does the government run a national park? These are the things that need to be corrected, and this is the time to think again.”

This new model will also see the government cut down on the number of institutions in the sector.

Balala said the idea is to have a lean team, and rely heavily on technology.

“How do you ensure you are lean, effective and efficient? These things need to be rethought,” he said. “If we continue with the same models as before the pandemic, I do not think we will be able to progress.”

The CS said the adoption of technology post-Covid-19 should go beyond Facebook and Twitter, noting that the whole business economy depends on applications. “Actually sales applications. That is why the investment of broadband capacity and smartphones is very key,” said Balala.

He observed that the government can adequately maximise its 6,000 staff without stretching them with the deployment of drones.

He said Covid-19 has taught the sector the importance of the domestic market - necessitating a change in the business model.

“Nobody imagined that there is a market called the domestic market. Not only Kenya; we tried it but a lot of countries never appreciated their local and domestic clientele who are the people around you,” he said.

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