Several weeks ago, the evacuation of British tourists from Mombasa marked a historic low for the country’s tourism sector. The President later met tourism stakeholders from the Coast and put in place a raft of measures to save the ailing industry.
Although coastal tourism stakeholders have since expressed reservations at these measures, this is an important conversation because Kenya’s tourism is on its knees. International travel advisories should be countered with national advisories and conversations on the way forward. Indeed, tourism’s current woes are a national disaster and must be treated as such. This sector has for decades been breathing life into the country’s economy. In 2011, tourism revenue was Sh97.9 billion, an amount that translated to 11 per cent of Kenya’s formal jobs and indirect benefits to hundreds of thousands of Kenyans. According to the World Tourism Organisation, the tourism market share of emerging economies is expected to reach over one billion international tourist arrivals by 2030.
Domestic tourists are expected to be many more. In 2013, they were six times the number of international tourists. Kenya and other African countries can therefore not afford to miss out on these projected tourism benefits, particularly domestic tourists. Domestic ecotourism can play a vital role in salvaging and sustaining the country’s tourism. Ecotourism thrives on responsibility and sustainability by encouraging responsible travel to natural destinations. Kenya has a legion of such destinations and has in the past been voted by readers of the renowned US Recommend Magazine as the best ecotourism destination in the world. One of the hidden benefits of ecotourism is that it can promote domestic tourism. Kenyans may not necessarily be drawn to mainstream tourist attractions in the country but they can happily venture to pristine, untested and exciting tourism destinations.
Coastal Kenya, which is the leading tourism destination, can benefit immensely from this approach. There are dozens of natural destinations that are ignored because of undue focus on smooth white beaches. These destinations are as simple as home visits and as adventurous as sightseeing coral gardens. See also: Gunmen posing as preachers kill dozens in northeast Nigeria – police If only one per cent of Nairobi’s four million people travelled down the ecotourism road to Mombasa, the coastal city would host 40,000 visitors. Each county has ecotourism hot spots that can attract domestic tourists in a manner that mainstream tourism cannot. Unlocking this potential to as many Kenyans as possible will vastly enhance ecotourism, consequently multiplying both economic and environmental benefits.
Article Source:Isaac Kalua.