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KWS opens its top park lodges and hotels to private investors

 Tourists at the Voi Wildlife Lodge. The prime properties on offer include 71 eco-lodges and tented camps. [File, Standard]

Kenyans and foreign investors now have an opportunity to privately run luxury hotels, lodges, and merchandise shops in some of Kenya's most premium game reserves and parks.

This is after the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) - which is in charge of running all of the country's game parks - invited investors to develop and manage 122 of its prime hospitality establishments spread around the country.

They include luxury lodges, restaurants and tented camps in some of Kenya's most pristine and beautiful locations in the Coast, Central Rift, eastern, northern Kenya and Tsavo regions, among others.

The successful investors will under the lucrative deal get an opportunity to revamp the dilapidated establishments and manage them profitably.

The Standard Business could not immediately get specific financial terms of the deal which is expected to help the cash-strapped KWS diversify its revenue streams.

"Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) invites investors to lease, develop and manage diverse investment sites for facilities such as eco-lodges, tented camps, convention centres, restaurants, shops, and recreation areas amongst others at various locations in KWS national parks, reserves, sanctuaries and stations," said KWS in a notice.

The prime properties on offer include 71 eco-lodges and tented camps around the country.

Others are tree houses (1), Bandas (6), shops (7) and restaurants (10), among others.

KWS has set September 21 as the application deadline for potential investors willing to run the park establishments.

Major tourist attractions

Kenya's 54 national parks and reserves are scattered in various parts of the country and are major tourist attractions.

Tourism alongside horticulture, tea, and remittances are Kenya's top foreign exchange earners.

Popular safaris, which are revered around the world, largely buoyed Kenya's earnings from tourism last year, growing by 83 per cent to Sh268 billion from a year earlier as Covid curbs eased.

Kenya also offers beach holidays along its Indian Ocean coastline and wildlife safaris inland.

The United States was the main source of visitors last year followed by Uganda, Britain and Tanzania, according to official statistics.

The KWS grand plan to develop the parks and create new income streams comes as it battles financial headwinds.

Its main income is from park entry fees, rental income and aircraft hire services. The state agency recently proposed to hike park fees.

The proposed increments targeting wildlife lovers come at a time when the high cost of living crisis is already squeezing Kenyans hard.

But KWS reckons the new fee regime will help it generate additional income to run and conserve national parks.

KWS's plan to develop the parks comes against the backdrop of a string of heavy investments by leading luxury hotels in Kenya last year.

They include Accor Hotels, Hilton, Carlson Rezidor and Acacia Premier.

Hotel chains are increasingly facing pressure from ultra-affluent clients who demand special services.

Kenya and South Africa have been tipped as the next continental hotspots in luxury hotel investment.

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