African Reserves

Ministry to cap visitors to parks and game reserves

Economy

Ministry to cap visitors to parks and game reserves


Najib Balala, Cabinet Secretary for Wildlife and Tourism. PICTURES | NJAU SALATON | NMG

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Summary

  • The high-volume parks and reserves, Masai Mara, Amboseli and Nairobi National Park, will not allow visitors beyond their capacity of 32,000, 13,0000 and 10,000 visitors per month respectively.
  • The number of visitors, local and non-residents, will be limited through an online ticketing and digital payment system that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) plans to roll out.
  • The tickets that will be generated by the digital system will display traveler details such as the validity date, and have a cost breakdown showing the charges.

The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife plans to cap the daily number of visitors allowed to some national parks and game reserves to reduce overcrowding in high season and push travel year-round, in a move that will see fares increase more than six times.

The cap will be set at the carrying capacity of the parks, according to a new strategy document from the ministry.

This means that the high-volume parks and reserves, Masai Mara, Amboseli and Nairobi National Park, will not allow visitors beyond their capacity of 32,000, 13,0000 and 10,000 visitors per month respectively.

The number of visitors, locals and non-residents, will be limited through an online ticketing and digital payment system that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) plans to roll out in all national parks and reserves.

Tickets that will be generated by the digital system will show traveler details, such as the validity date, and will have a cost breakdown showing fees, including portions allocated to park conservation and development.

“Capping visitor volumes in priority parks could reduce overall visitor numbers but should not negatively impact overall revenue if combined with a seasonal price increase,” the Ministry of Tourism said. and Fauna.

“The main assumption is that prices increase from June to October for residents and non-residents, including African Union citizens, two to six times in the Masai Mara; and 30 to 150 percent in Amboseli and Nairobi Park. Assuming there is no drop in visitor numbers due to price increases.

The move comes amid problems with congestion of tourists and safari vehicles in parks and reserves such as the Masai Mara, particularly during the high wildebeest migration season, threatening wildlife and lowering international tourism standards for destinations and attraction for visitors.

The cap, however, is expected to increase entry rates during peak season due to demand. Visitors will also be required to pre-book park tickets to manage the influx and avoid gate fraud.

Tickets will not be transferable and will be labeled with personal ID or passport number to prevent resale by large tour operators.

The plan is part of a five-year tourism industry strategy to 2025.

It comes as the parks have boosted ticket sales thanks to locals during the pandemic period amid global travel disruption. The industry also expects continued recovery and high numbers of international tourists. The total number of visitors to national parks and game reserves increased by 40.8% in 2021 to 1.28 million from 913,052.

Revenue also reached 1.48 billion shillings. Park visitors and revenue are yet to reach 2019 levels of 2.27 million and 4.37 billion shillings respectively.

The Masai Mara, Amboseli and Nairobi National Park are considered high profile by the global tourist community due to the abundance of wildlife.

Capping will see the Masai Mara, for example, accommodate a maximum of 32,000 visitors from its carrying capacity, even during its peak season from June to October, when hotels, lodges and tour operators charge the highest rates.

In 2019, the park welcomed 54,000 and 60,000 visitors in July and August above capacity.

The ministry assumes that the volumes that will be lost during this period, such as July-August, will be partially redistributed during the intermediate months of June, September and October.

Amboseli also received over 13,000 visitors in February, July, August, September, October and December of the same year.

Nairobi National Park received visitors above its capacity of 10,000 people throughout the year according to 2019 data.

Tourism spending is expected to return to 2019 levels, when $1.97 billion (229.4 billion shillings) was recorded as total leisure travel spending from the world’s top 40 source markets, in 2024.

This year, $1.38 billion (160.7 billion shillings) is expected to be spent.

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