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Tour guides protest reduced Mara entry ticket validity

 Meitamei Ole Dapash, secretary general of Confederation of Kenya Tourist Guides (CKTG), Hemed Mukui, chair (CKTG), Charles Kataro(national treasurer) and Joseph Omitto (committee member) when they addressed a press conference in Nairobi on Friday. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Tour guides across the country have asked Narok County Government to reconsider a proposal to reduce Maasai Mara National Reserve entry ticket validity from 24 hours to 12 hours. According to the Confederation of Kenya Tourist Guides (CKTG), the proposal in the county's Finance Bill, 2023 is unacceptable and not value for money and will see the county lose millions in park entry fees.

Normally, tour operators pay for tourists' entry fees and give tour guides money to pay for park entry.

The new entry validity, which is contained in its Finance Bill 2023, he said is expected to be effective from July 1. ''While we recognise and appreciate the efforts by Narok County to increase their revenue collection, this action comes at a very unfortunate time because the tourism industry is just trying to get on its feet after the effects of Covid-19 and the economy of the communities living around Maasai Mara is very depressed," said Meitamei Ole Dapash, secretary general of CKTG.

Dapash, who is also the patron of the Mara Guides Association, said with the new ticket validity, when a tourist enters the park at 5pm for instance, the ticket will expire in one and a half hours at 6:30 pm, which is the time no game drive is allowed in the park.

This is unlike before, where when one enters the park at the same time, he or she will leave a 6:30 pm but come again the next day and use the same ticket till 6.30 pm.

''This is punitive, very exploitative, and undermines the effort of the entire industry to sell Maasai Mara as a favourable tourist destination. It came as a huge surprise and it also undermines the economic opportunities for local communities who rely on the tourists to give them businesses in one way or another,'' he said.

Dapash said the confederation plans to take action that will be costly to the county revenue-wise if they do not rescind that decision.

According to Maasai Mara Travel, entry fees to the park is based on the location of the camp or lodge at which one is staying at in the reserve.

If one is staying at accommodation located inside the main national reserve, the entrance fee is USD 70(Sh10,500) per adult per 24 hours and USD 40(Sh6,000) per child under 12 years of age for non-residents.

When staying at accommodation outside the main reserve, the entry fee increases to USD 80(Sh12,000) per adult per 24 hours and USD 45(Sh6,750) per child for 24 hours for foreigners.

This applies to both the Narok side of the main reserve as well as Mara Conservancy in the western corridor of the Maasai Mara though Mara Conservancy note that persons under 18 years of age are also extended the child rate.

It currently costs Sh1,200 for East African Community(EAC) adult residents, Sh,1 000 for Kenyan adults and Sh500 and Sh300 for children and students respectively.

The new Bill, proposes USD80(Sh12,000) for adults to enter the park for adult non-locals per day and USD 40(Sh6,000) for children and students respectively for those staying inside the park.

For both non-residents adults, children and students staying outside the park, it will cost them USD80 (Sh12,000) per day and USD 45(Sh6,750) respectively.

For Kenyan citizens, it will remain Sh1,000 for adults and Sh300 for children and students and East African Community residents Sh2,500 up from Sh1,200 for adults and Sh1000 for students and children.

Hemed Mukui, chairman of CKTG said the reduced entry ticket validity will affect those who travel from far to come to Mara and maybe reach there late.

''Why should someone arrive at let's say 3pm and pay only for three hours for game drive, a ticket that will not be sued tomorrow again but you will have to pay for another ticket? It doesn't make economic sense and that is why we are asking the County to consider rescinding that policy,'' said Mukui.

Charles Kataro, national treasurer of CKTG also complained of harassment of tour guides by traffic police officers over good conduct certificate.

''The machines that are supposed to print good conduct certificates broke down and we are now being issued with receipts but police officers do not want to recognise the receipts as proof of payment, forcing the tour guides to bribe them to pass. I call upon the police to respect the receipt,'' said Kataro, who is also CEO of Lake Victoria Tour Guides Association.

He also called for good payment for tour guides since every tour operator pays them any amount they wish.

''The standard of living has increased and unfortunately, the rates that the tour guides were being paid 10 years ago are still being used and I request the tour guides to be considerate of the current economic situation,'' said Kataro.

He said there has been no organised scale of salaries for tour guides and employees take that advantage to pay meagre even sometimes lower than Sh2,000 while others slightly above that per day.

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