Tourism players differ over KWS plan to hire out national park sites

Plans by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to lease sections of national parks to investors have elicited mixed reactions.

KWS plans to lease at least 13 tourist camps to private investors as part of arrangements to boost its revenues.

But renowned environmentalist and nature conservationist Hadley Benny Becha is leading the onslaught against the planned leasing deal. Becha, the executive director of Community Action for Nature Conservation (Canco), says the real problem lies with government policy and pronouncement that all state agencies should generate revenue of a certain proportion. 

"This has sent many into panic mode causing some to moot projects even if they are not viable. That is what KWS is doing," he says.

He argues that national parks were established in a bid to protect and conserve biodiversity.

"They were not meant to generate money, the latter is secondary," argues Becha.

According to him, leasing out public property to private enterprises for profit purposes is unacceptable.

Hospitality marketer and chairman of the North Rift Tourism Association Paul Kimeli Kurgat, however, says  the process by KWS was long overdue. 

"We are growing in all aspects of travel and so there is demand for accommodation. Look at Maasai Mara and try to get accommodation in the July - March period, one would be disappointed," he says.

He defended the move, terming it as a well-researched plan that will not affect the existence and survival of  wildlife.

A fortnight ago, the state agency announced bids for investors to develop and manage tourism sites in selected national parks it manages.

The sites include Ndololo and Patterson sites at Tsavo East National Park, Kanjaro and River Hippo sites at Tsavo West National Park, Tusk Camp in the Aberdares National Park, Mulika and Fig Tree in Meru National Park as well as Southern bypass sites at Nairobi National Park.

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