NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 1 – Poor road infrastructure to the country’s national parks and reserves has been cited as a key impediment to the sector’s growth.
Pancras Karema, the Chief Executive Officer Expeditions Maasai Safaris, says the roads leading to major national reserves including the Maasai Mara are in a poor state threatening the performance of the sector which contributes nearly 3.9 percent to the country’s Growth Domestic Product.
“We are going to lose the industry; this is because we are not only in competition with ourselves as Dubai and Tanzania are trying to work very hard to maintain their roads. It takes less time compared to what we witness in Kenya when tourists are visiting major attractions such as Maasai Mara,” Karema says.
“The international tourists suffer more when it comes to poor roads since they come from developed countries and they understand the beauty of good roads. The local tourists are very few so not many of them would know how the situation is like,” Karema added during a recent visit to the reserve.
In March, a Sh3 billion project to upgrade the Narok-Sekeani road was halted as Chinese contractor – China Wu Yi Company – cited lack of funds to complete the road works. The project was 65 per cent complete.
The project began in 2016 and was projected to be complete by June 2019, ahead of the peak season for the tourism industry.
The wildebeest migration in the Mara River attracts over 70,000 tourists annually.
Narok-Sekeani highway was touted as of its kind since the inception of Maasai Mara in 1958 and was to boost transport of tourists to the national reserve.
Narok County collected Sh2.73 billion in revenue from the reserve in 2018 in what was mainly attributed to a growth in tourism numbers, despite the poor state of roads in the area.
Karema mentioned that the tourism sector still struggles with other challenges that if not addressed will continue affecting its performance.
“We still are dealing with poaching activities happening in our reserves, the terrorists also scare away our visitors and man and animal fight, these are some of the matters that need to be resolved for the sector to continue thriving,” Karema commented.
However, last year the tourism sector contributed Sh157.4 billion to the country’s economy due to an increase in the number of visitors by 37 percent.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council report, Kenya is now positioned as the third largest tourism economy in Sub-Saharan Africa coming after South Africa and Nigeria.
The sector’s GDP is projected to grow by 5.9% in 2019.