Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has embarked on a campaign to refurbish and upgrade the existing national parks in a bid to diversify tourism products to keep the sector afloat.
The state agency is said to be upgrading the visitor facilities to enhance the tourism products at the Parks to include conference tourism, culture, cuisine, entertainment, sports, nature (beach and safari), and Meetings Incentives and exhibitions.
At Lake Nakuru National Park, for instance, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is diversifying its tourism products to include boating activities and business conferencing.
The Park’s senior Warden Edward Karanja said the diversification is meant to complement its traditional tourism activities which are game safaris, pick-nick sites, camping, and bird watching.
He said conferencing was becoming a popular product in business tourism which came with the elevation of Nakuru into city status in December last year.
Karanja said KWS lost more than Sh400 million worth of infrastructure after the roads, power lines, offices, camping sites, and staff quarters were submerged due to the rising water from the lake forcing the agency to embark on opening and repairing more access roads into the Park.
The senior warder, however, was happy that a new phenomenon to explore had come to existence at Lake Nakuru saying that the swelling lakes of the Great Rift Valley had caused a habitat modification bringing in new species of freshwater birds in search of fish.
He said the Lake’s new biodiversity was very rich, as it was now home to both salt and freshwater lake birds, where there has been an increase of freshwater bird species following the accidental introduction of fish into the lake in 2020.
Karanja further explained that there were three new types of fish including the Nile perch and Tilapia, which had resulted in an increase of bird species from the initial 400 to about 450 currently.
Noting that the lake was home to millions of the lesser and greater flamingos, the senior official regretted that the numbers have significantly reduced to about 6,000 due to a change in the water quality whose PH has dropped from 10.5 to 9.
“The flamingo have concentrated along the shores on the southern side of the lake where they were busy foraging and making nesting although they breed in Lake Natron in Tanzania, “said Karanja.
Karanja said currently, the park had been classified into different categories; an Important Bird Area (IBA), a sanctuary for Rhinos and the Rothschild Giraffe, a World Heritage Site by the United Nations and Scientific Organization (UNESCO,) and a Ramsar site.
Following the up-grading, the KWS official has called on Kenyans to visit the Park saying they have products that are tailored towards the needs of the local tourists.
According to the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), managing director Dr. Betty Raddier the board was seeking to grow domestic tourism using the “You deserve a holiday” campaign to get the residents informed about the various destinations that their country has to offer.
Dr Raddier challenged Kenyans to drop the notion that tourism was a preserve for the wealthy or those with disposable income and called on firms in the tourism sector to come up with reasonable packages affordable to most Kenyans.
“We have for a long time relied too much on foreigners to build our tourism, it is now our time as locals to spur the growth of our domestic tourism to the next level by playing an active role in the growth,” advised Raddier.
She said the “You deserve a holiday” initiative has led to the growth of domestic tourism in the country by breaking the reliance on seasonal tourism cycles that largely depends on foreigners.
Kenya Wildlife Service, Marketing and Business Development Manager Gladys Kosgey said that KWS had agreed to collaborate with KTB in efforts to revive the tourism and hospitality sectors which are still struggling to recover from the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She indicated that it was important for tourism industry players including the government to unite and realise the potential of domestic tourism adding that as the industry grows, more local businesses would thrive and as a result, more employment opportunities would be unlocked.
By Esther Mwangi and Charloth Chepkemoi