Proposed park fee increases threaten tourism recovery in Kenya


(eTN) Tourism stakeholders in Kenya are preparing for a second battle, when after vowing to advocate against a rise in visa fees, it became known that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) was also eyeing a major increase in park entrance fees, which could reach US$90 per person, per day, in key parks during the high season.

KWS apparently broke their silence last week on their plans to raise fees and – when the plans were leaked to key stakeholders – rushed to the public to pre-empt negative publicity with their own media campaign.

In a proposed staggered increase over the next two years, KWS announced they were seeking a low- and high-season entrance fee, ranging for category one parks between US$60 and US$90 a day, while some of the lesser-visited parks would continue to attract lower fees of US$50. However, under plans to rebrand some of the parks, these categories may also be revised in order to generate more income for those protected areas.

Stakeholders have also expressed concern over what such KWS increases may mean for parks managed by county councils, with an eye on the Masai Mara, which already charges at present US$80 per person, per day. One usually reliable source mentioned to this correspondent that the Narok county council has, behind closed doors, been toying with a US$100 charge, which if found correct – is expected to be tagged onto the KWS move very soon – may sharply increase the cost of safaris to Kenya. Charges in neighboring countries are still comparably lower, but other competitive disadvantages keep the cost of photographic safaris there high, too.

Tourism stakeholders are still reeling from accusations by the Kenyan foreign minister that the country has a cheap reputation abroad, but while this may be true for some – but by no means all – beach holiday packages on inclusive tour charters, going on safari in Kenya is considered far from cheap or “downmarket, as the minister suggested recently. Attractive new award-winning small safari properties have sprung up across Kenya in recent years, with some of the tariffs running up to US$1,500 per day, which are continuing to attract the rich and famous and also many ordinary folks, who at times save up for years on end to eventually afford their dream holiday – a safari of a lifetime.