Business Daily (Nairobi)

Kenya: KWS Seeks Investors for Luxury Resorts in National Parks

Kenya Wildlife Service is looking to increase the number of visitors and revenues in national parks by inviting investors to put up luxury accommodation.

The wildlife custodian plans to increase the bed capacity in the safari circuit by 610 beds, a move expected to open up parks and tourism circuits. This will translate to higher number of visitors and revenues in these conservation areas.

"We are putting an effort to address the lack of bed capacity in the sector.

This will also help open up underutilised parks and decongest the popular ones," said Ms Race Musumba, KWS's head of marketing and business development.

Lack of accommodation in some parks has been identified as a major hindrance to attracting visitors to newly-opened tourist circuits that KWS has invested in so as to diversity the country's tourism offering.

Industry players are optimistic the move to add 610 new beds in the safari circuit will help diversify the Kenya's product offering especially to less visited parks and help attract repeat tourists.

Fred Kaigua, the chief executive of Kenya Association of Tour Operators (Kato) said the current accommodation offering in recently-opened circuits can be limiting.

"New products are positive for the industry. Opening up new areas that are not popular and putting up accommodation is good for operators and in marketing," he said.

KWS has invited investors to provide accommodation in nine national parks.

These developments will leverage on the opportunity to create a diversified tourist product that will be easily integrated into, complement and enrich the new circuits, moving congestion from crowded areas such as Maasai Mara and Amboseli.

So far, investment sites have been awarded to sites in Ndere Island, Kisumu Impala, Aberdare, Tsavo East, Hells Gate, and Meru.KWS has also identified sites in Chyulu Hills, Tsavo West, Meru, Mt Elgon, Aberdare, Sibiloi, Mt Kenya and Ruma national parks, expected to help grow the Central, North and Western Kenya circuits and Tsavo Conservation area.

Ms Musumba said although the tenders are international, most of the investments so far have been taken up by Kenyans.All investments in the parks are to be done according to the management plans of the conservation area.

KWS is working at reducing its deficit by increasing its revenue collection. New investments in parks will increase its revenues through the monthly lease fee and higher numbers of visitors.

On January 1, it increased park fees, which generate 6.4 per cent or Sh2.7 billion of its turnover of Sh2.8 billion. Foreign visitors will now pay $80 (Sh6,640) from a minimum of $60 (Sh4,980) in its premium parks.

East Africans are not affected by the new park fees and will continue to pay Sh500.

KWS is betting on increased tourist numbers, which rose 13.5 per cent to 549,083 from 483,468 in the six months to June, to grow sales in a year that government is forecasting earnings from the sector to hit Sh85 billion from last year's Sh73.7 billion.

The review comes a year after KWS raised its fees in what led to a 47 per cent rise in its turnover to Sh2.8 billion in the year to June 2010.

This came as its expenses rose to Sh4.6 billion from Sh3.7 billion on increased salaries and park maintenance fees -- which left it with a deficit of Sh1.54 billion that was plugged by government (Sh860 million), donations (Sh170 million) and donor funding (Sh198 million).

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