Conservancy communities face cash crunch

Thursday, April 16th, 2020 00:00 |
Masai Mara stakeholders consultative meeting with Wildlife PS Fred Segor during the first inscription of the Masai Mara National Reserve as a Unesco World Heritage Site in February. Photo/PD/PETER LESHAN

Communities in conservancies have been adversely affected by closures of hotels in game reserves and national parks.

The lodges usually remit huge amounts of money to members of the conservancies, but after the tourism sector ground to a halt and the hotels  closed due to coronavirus pandemic, the groups are not receiving the money in leases, tariffs and fees.

Virtually all lodges and camps in tourists resorts in the country have closed and workers sent home, leaving more than three million people who directly or indirectly depend on tourism  without incomes.

Closure of hotels has also affected revenue streams of several county governments and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

Samuel Tunai, Narok Governor says his government will in the current fiscal year lose billions of shillings because of the closures in Masai Mara Game Reserve.

For the first time since 1958 when the national reserve was established, hotels in the world famous tourist establishment were without guests during the long Easter weekend.

”We are going to run short of Sh3 billion because of closures and stoppage of international passenger flights.

That will among other obligations affect services to the people of Narok,” Tunai said.

Lake Nakuru National Park, the KWS premium park, received only 22 guests, down from 620 last year. Most of them were locals.

“The drop was big compared to last year. Even in times of local skirmishes or terror attacks, we haven’t recorded such a low volume of visitors,” said Dickson Ritan, head of KWS Central Conservancy Area who is based at the park.

In Samburu Game Reserve and Amboseli National Park, only a few locals visited for game viewing and thereafter left, leaving few hotels without lodgers.

Kenya Conservancies Association says if the Covid-19 disease persists beyond Kenya’s traditional peak seasons of June to October, communities that directly depend on tourism, could starve.

“Closure of hotels in the conservancies bode ill for financial prospects of people outside game reserves and national parks,” Dickson Kaelo, the association’s chief executive officer told TravelWise. 

“The incomes they earn monthly in leases are no longer being paid because of lack of business,” Kaelo added. 

Most hoteliers are worried that their brands will lose if the pandemic persists for long, adding that it would take long to market them after the viral disease peters out. 

“It has taken us many years to build our brands. Covid-19 has undone all that. It will take time and resource to build that again,” said Lilly Waddington, the proprietor of Osero Camp in Mara and Magical Beach Hotel in the coast.  

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