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Trouble in Paradise as Kenya Gears for Post-Covid Tourism Influx

Trouble in Paradise as Kenya Gears for Post-Covid Tourism Influx

Kenya is famed around the world for its rolling plains, lakes, mountains, and of course, its wildlife. From massive herds of gnu’s, gazelles and zebra to prides of lions and the call of hyenas in the night, there is much to attract ecotourists from around the world. It also has enviable beach retreats with white powdery sand and a definite laid back chic, no news no shoes atmosphere. Kenya’s government is also quick to recognise the financial contribution this makes to its GDP. But there’s trouble in paradise, says Deon De Villiers, a safari design and booking specialist whose many years of residence and travel in Africa have justifiably earned him a name as the “Safari Guru,” a go-to source for anyone planning an African safari and vacation retreat to remember.

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Kenyans Rely on Conservation Revenue

But, in Kenya, says Deon, many public and private conservation organisations, fueled by the strong cultural influences of the Masai and the Samburu have been getting it right now for years. “They’re combining luxury tourist lodges, conservation, and initiatives that plough a substantial amount of their revenues back into community upliftment projects which work from the grassroots up, involving the centuries strong connection that Kenyan tribes have with their land,” says Deon.

“Over and above that, up to 80 percent of their employees are locals, and training programs are ensuring that they won’t just be the waiters and cleaners, they reach their personal goals of running and owing the tourism businesses. Far-sighted conservationists know that to achieve their goals, communities that see conservation areas as traditional rangelands must be given opportunities and advantages. When they achieve this, locals continue to see the land they’ve owned for generations intertwined with conservation areas as an asset that belongs to them and over which they have custodianship. When they don’t, conflict between human needs and conservation are inevitable.” Historically Kenyans are intrinsically connected with their land – many are roaming pastoralists who have extreme knowledge and respect for the wildlife and lands they own – these are the imposing tribes of the Masai and the Samburu – but the strength of feeling and knowledge is wider and deeper than these iconic peoples.

Present and Future Challenges

While Kenya remains among Africa’s top safari destinations, recent years have shown just how vulnerable the delicate balance between people and nature can be. Deon says the pressure is on. “Some of the issues are brought about by challenges that impact the rest of the world and come as no surprise,” he says. “Population growth and climate change are among these, but the events of ‘unprecedented’ devastation of the global pandemic of 2020 could not have been predicted and led to a heavy blow to safari areas. Travel restrictions dealt a vicious blow to tourism worldwide. With the country’s economy, and so many of its people, depending on the tourism industry in Kenya, and with conservation being largely funded by revenue brought into the country by overseas visitors on safari, things are looking grim.”

As a planner of personalised safaris, Deon and his small hand-picked team of experts have a vast network of contacts throughout Africa, including Kenya. “They’re trying not to get despondent. They’re looking towards the future and gearing for a tourism influx when travel restrictions are a thing of the past. But the questions is; for how much longer they can go on like this,” he says.  “At a time when they find themselves facing increasing pressure from environmental and social factors, the revenue source that kept their efforts afloat has all but dried up.”

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Prioritising Dreams of Africa a Vital Contribution to Conservation

Ordinary people around the world can help to alleviate the pressure, says De Villiers, and the best way they can do it is by making the expected post-covid tourism influx happen. “We need to create a buzz,” he says. “Most people dream of a visit to the “African” wilds, and it’s time they prioritised that. Yes, they’ll have the holiday of a lifetime and come back with the incredible photos of natural landscapes and wildlife to prove it. Yes, they’ll be living in luxury, catered to by a host of people who are waiting to welcome them, but they’ll also be contributing to the continued existence of the very things they came to see.”

Kenya has certainly done all it can to prioritize its re-opening to tourists. It’s infrastructure was already there and its expanded it to make it “Covid” appropriate.  It has one of the most efficient covid policies in entry – mandating a negative covid test, with appropriate forms and keeping its people / workers and guests in camps and lodges protected while allowing for an amazing wildlife experience. One of Safari Guru’s team has already visited Kenya (in December /January) to examine the logistics and processes and she was amazingly impressed by the clear, easy to follow COVID protocols and when coupled with the lack of travellers and wide open spaces this makes for a safe and stress free escape – which is soul food for all the senses.

For those Interested in wildlife, amazing open savanna’s, interesting cultural experiences and / or pristine beaches and amazing fusion cuisine often from camps and lodges own organic gardens, Kenya is a must and it’s open and ready to welcome you.

For more information visit the African Travel Specialist | Safari Guru website or call Deon De Villiers and his team of experts on (+61) 0427 782 226.

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