(eTN) – As part of Kenya’s drive towards quality tourism and to further shed the image of being a cheap destination, the Minister for Tourism has urged safari operators to move away from the use of the conventional mini busses and use purpose-built 4×4 vehicles, which projects the right image for safari tourism. In neighboring Tanzania and also in Rwanda and Uganda, the use of mini busses is shunned in favor of the sturdier, original safari vehicles, built on the chassis of a Landrover or Toyota Landcruiser. In Kenya, the use of the 9-seater mini vans by Nissan or Toyota are more widespread and only classy, up-market operators are using the more expensive, but also more durable, 4x4s.
The minister was speaking at the Annual General Meeting of KATO, the Kenya Association of Tour Operators, last week, when he cited the provisions of the new tourism act giving his ministry the powers to regulate such changes.
In response, several tour company executives got in touch with this correspondent, pointing out that in the words of one: “It is fair and good what the minister says but let no one be fooled, this has to be a longish process, not to be done overnight, and the cost of the 4x4s has to be reduced by scrapping import duties and taxes on them, otherwise they will be far too expensive for many tour companies.
“This has been promised for long and not happened, so let the minister fight for that in cabinet first and be implemented before he throws new demands at us. We have suggested that taxes and duties be fully removed from special safari vehicles and only come into effect when we sell the cars after their useful lifespan comes to an end after a few years use.”
Fair words and comments it must be said, with a word of caution though, that such new regulations and plans must be broadly discussed and agreed upon and not dictated to the industry by a ministry looking only at one aspect and not considering logistics, financing, and bottom lines.