When COVID-19 landed in Kenya, it hit the tourism sector the worst. International tourism was the most dented. Hundreds of hotels closed shop, thousands lost their jobs, and billions in revenue were lost. So the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife decided to take action. In mid-March last year, the ministry set aside KES500 million for a tourism recovery kitty to cushion sector players. June of the same year, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) followed suit. It halved conservation fees for all visitor categories. The move paid off by triggering a wave of domestic tourism to national parks and reserves. Kenyans flocked to the conservation areas to enjoy the award-winning experience at a fraction of the price.
The travel industry had a feast day until 30th June 2021, when the old park rate card would revert. However, in a written statement a few days ago, KWS’s Director-General, J. M. Waweru, extended the happy season to 31st December 2021. The wildlife custodian and the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife had decided it would be best to hold out the olive branch for a while longer – at least until 1st January 2022.
Besides reducing park entrance fees, the Kenya government used a cocktail of measures to offer a soft landing for the sector. Through the Tourism Finance Corporation (TFC) or instance, the government provided soft loans to hotels and related establishments. In addition, a KES2 billion stimulus package set aside to support the renovation of facilities and the restructuring of business operations came in handy. Half of the money (KES 1 billion) would engage 5,500 community scouts under the Kenya Wildlife Service. The other KES1 billion would support 160 community conservancies. Some of the stimulus funds would go to support the operations of Utalii College. Going by a spot check on social media, most service providers in tourism welcome the move. Have you recently visited a national park in Kenya? Did the reduced prices motivate you? Share your views in the comments section below.