The tourism and travel sector are undoubtedly one of the worst hit globally following the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.
Arising from the pandemic, the tourism and wildlife sectors are experiencing unprecedented health and socio-economic crisis of unimagined proportions.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism has continued to outpace the global economy having recorded 1.5 billion international tourist arrivals in 2019 representing a 4 percent increase from the previous year.
Although the UNWTO had projected growth of about 3 percent to 4 percent in international tourist arrivals worldwide in 2020 based on the 2019 growth trends, economic prospects and the UNWTO confidence index, these projections are now in doubt due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Kenya, tourism remains the third largest contributor to GDP after agriculture and manufacturing. For instance, the number of international visitor arrivals increased by 0.4 percent to 2,035.4 thousand in 2019 whereas tourism earnings grew by 3.9 percent from Sh157.4 billion in 2018 to Sh163.6 billion in 2019 according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Economic Survey Report of 2020.
In addition, the year 2019 saw performance report released early in the year by the Tourism Research Institute.
Actors in the tourism sector have therefore, through adoption of these protocols, taken responsibility of ensuring that destination Kenya is safe for tourism business.
The tourism sector has continued to be an important contributor to economies worldwide.
The Draft Revised National Tourism Policy is now in the stage for stakeholder participation to provide their input and comments.
The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife is therefore requesting the tourism stakeholders to submit their inputs and comments on the Draft Revised National Tourism Policy.
The Revised National Tourism Policy will guide the sector into the post-covid-19 era and beyond.
These submissions and inputs may be shared with the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife by 31st July 2020.
The Cabinet Secretary for tourism established the National Tourism and Hospitality Protocols Taskforce through a gazette notice dated 29th May 2020, to develop protocols to guide the gradual reopening of the Tourism and Wildlife has the potential to contribute directly and indirectly to the achievement of national development goals, “Big Four” transformation agenda, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda Africa 2063.
Affordable health care under the ‘’Big Four Agenda’’ is geared toward ensuring everyone access healthcare regardless of physical location; providing healthcare to Kenyans regardless of their financial standing and providing quality service care to Kenyans of all walks.
The Ministry planned to promote health and wellness tourism program in conjunction with the health sector.
This program was to provide medical and health services at lower prices since a number of medical, health and tourism services are provided with package rates including flat rate and discount in addition to the beneficiary’s ability to choose the services at affordable prices.
On August 7, 2020, Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala launched an elaborate Lion and spotted Hyena Recovery and Action Plan that will ran for the next ten years.
The plan, which runs from 2020 to 2030, aim is to sustain a viable population of lions and spotted hyenas in healthy ecosystems as a heritage for posterity.
Launching the plan in Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Balala said, Lions and Hyenas play an important role in the food chain by controlling herbivore populations which if not regulated, would cause an increase in their competition amongst them and make some to go extinct, thus reducing biodiversity.
Balala added that, lions and hyenas prey on the weakest of the herd and this keeps the population of herd animals resilient and healthy.
“If lions and hyenas did not exist, there would be a symbiotic relationship between parasites and herd animals. This way, parasites could increase and spread throughout the herd, resulting in fewer healthy animals.” Balala explained.
The CS said, the plan was developed in accordance with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Convention for International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), and Convention of Migratory Species (CMS) guidelines, adding, that the planning process was participative, transparent and informed by the best available science.
On August 8, President Uhuru Kenyatta expressed satisfaction with the measures being taken by stakeholders in the hospitality sector to protect tourists from Covid-19.
He said that the country was ready to receive tourists and, encouraged local and foreign travelers to take advantage of the prevailing low rates to visit the country’s famous tourist sites.
“I want to take this opportunity to encourage every single Kenyan to take advantage and to travel…You can travel, you can move,” the President said.
“And now as you know, we have also opened up our skies and flights are coming. We welcome all those who choose to come,” he added.
President Kenyatta spoke at State House, Nairobi during a virtual meeting with elite Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge.
Kipchoge is Kenya’s new goodwill ambassador for tourism and is in the Masai Mara Game Reserve with his family to witness this year’s annual wildebeest migration.
The President urged Kenyans as well as visitors to continue observing the Covid-19 containment protocols saying safety is not a government responsibility but an individual choice.
“Safety is not really just a Government issue. It is an individual choice. To remain safe and by so doing, keep everybody else safe,” he said.
August 13, Najib Balala launched the annual Elephant naming ceremony at Amboseli National Park, in Kajiado County.
The event, coincided with the World Elephant Day which brings together conservationists worldwide to help elephants. It is themed: “Bring the World together to help Elephants.”
Balala announced that the country will give opportunities to conservationists and friends -of-wildlife throughout the World, to name baby elephants and rhinos at a fee of Sh.100,000 per baby.
The money raised will go towards Ranger’s Welfare Fund- a programme which the government has started in order to empower rangers in the country, who are always at the forefront in the fight against poaching, as a way of aiding conservation.
“We have noted with keen interest that Amboseli has experienced a baby Elephant boom this year and today, we are giving those interested a once-in –a- lifetime chance to name 170 baby elephants born in the area since January, 2020.” Balala said.
The international team of scientists and conservationists was able to continue its ambitious programme to save the northern white rhino from extinction: On August 18, 2020 they harvested 10 eggs from the last remaining two individuals, Najin and Fatu, in the third-ever ovum pickup procedure in northern white rhinos at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
With great support from the Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenyan Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, the team from the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo-and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and Czech Safari Park Dvůr Králové overcame substantial challenges to perform this important procedure in such critical times.
Preparations for the next steps in the programme – the generation and transfer of embryos are underway, ensuring that everything is done not to lose any more precious time saving the northern white rhinos from the brink of extinction.
“The progress made so far in the northern white rhino assisted reproduction project is very encouraging, and we look forward to the transfer of the already developed embryos into southern white rhino surrogate females here at Ol Pejeta Conservancy. This project should galvanize the world’s attention to the plight of endangered species and make us avoid actions that undermine law enforcement and fuel demand for the rhino horn” said Najib Balala.
On November 4, the government of Kenya awarded a title deed to Nairobi National Park for the 2000 acres Government land that was formerly known as Sheep and Goat Research Facility, which is adjacent to the Park. The title was awarded by President Uhuru Kenyatta at a ceremony at the Kenyatta International Convention Center.
“Giving the title deed to Nairobi National Park enables the Park to secure the much-needed space for wildlife and is a clear testimony of Kenya’s commitment to wildlife conservation. We must secure more space for wildlife habitat for posterity,” the President said.
With the formal acquisition of the title deed for the 2000 acres Sheep and Goats Research Facility, it means that Nairobi National Park will enlarge from its current 29,000 acres to 31,000 acres under Kenya Wildlife Service protection.
The Research Facility located on the southern side of Nairobi National Park will provide a wildlife corridor to inter-connect Nairobi the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) , in Machakos County, and beyond.
In September this year, ILRI and Swara Plains Conservancy declared 32,000 and 15,000 acres of land respectively for wildlife conservation in Machakos County. This means that the Park will have 47,000 acres available as dispersal area for wildlife.
CAS Joseph Boinnet launched the tea half marathon within the Highlands that is set to kick off next year on November 27.
He also commissioned the opening of Brevan Fitness Centre and a swimming pool in November 30, in a bid to diversify tourism products.
He also launched Agro-Tourism in Bomet County which will pave way for packaged tea tours across the tea growing areas in the country.
To diversify Kenya tourism products from beach & safari, CAS noted that Bomet is strategically located to boost tea tourism, & at the same time link it with the Maasai Mara as a South Rift circuit, to promote tourism holistically.
December 2, CAS Joseph Boinnet launched the Cliff Boat Safaris in Lake Nakuru National Park, Nakuru County on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary.
He urged the management of the boats to strictly adhere to the specific safety protocols for boat safaris as clearly outlined in the recently launched Magical Kenya Tourism and Travel Health and Safety Protocols for the ‘New Normal’.
CAS also urged the sector to adapt to technology or perish. Because we cannot continue to offer the same old fare to today’s tech-savvy travelers. Even the pricing of products has to change; or else we will not get customers.
CS Najib Balala launched the Amboseli Command Centre on December 11.
The Command Centre is to monitor data from satellite collared wildlife, of different species and track their movements within the Amboseli eco system, to mitigate human wildlife conflict and poaching.
The CS also officially opened the Amboseli Fuel Filling Station, and the rehabilitated Kimana Gate Information Centre.
A Centre that will be used by KWS to keep track of the collared animals and monitor their movements to mitigate Human-Wildlife Conflicts.
Speaking during the launch, CS said that the 10 year Amboseli Management Plan was developed in consultation with the surrounding communities and group ranches.
December 18, Najib Balala said that the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife will engage the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage, to develop historical and cultural signature experiences within the Tsavo National Park.
On the same day, he officially opened the rebranded Taita Hills Safari Resort & Spa and Salt Lick Safari Lodge in Taita Taveta County.
He is accompanied by PS for Tourism, Safina Kwekwe who said that, as tourism stakeholders, there is need for them to reorganize themselves and diversify what they already have, so that they can have new innovative products to woo tourists.
“We have paid out KES 79Mil so far to Human Wildlife Compensation in Taita Taveta County, as a result of death caused by wildlife.” She said.