News 2008


Early Recovery of Nature-Based Tourism Good for Kenya and Good for Biodiversity Says UNEP Head

Achim Steiner Backs Kenya Tourist Board and Kenya Wildlife Service Push at Berlin Tourism Fair


Berlin/Nairobi, 5 March 2008 - Tourism can play a key role in restoring economic activity and employment in Kenya and in doing so play its part in bringing peace and stability to the East African country, the head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said today.

Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director was speaking on the eve of his departure to Berlin, Germany which this week is hosting one of the world’s biggest tourism fairs.

“Tourism, based in the main around Kenya’s fabled wildlife and natural landscapes has historically been a centre-piece of the economy and for job creation. The income generated is also vital for the country’s conservation effort and for maintaining Kenya’s important network of National Parks and other protected areas,” said Mr Steiner.

“Sadly visitor numbers have crashed since the post-election instability of late December 2007, 25,000 people directly employed in tourism-related industries and countless more indirectly employed have been laid off and revenues to parks and reserves have plummeted putting at risk countless conservation initiatives carried out by the Kenya Wildlife Service and others,” he said.

“The newly signed peace agreement, brokered by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his team, now provides an opportunity to bring stability to Kenya and its people. Tourism can play a central role in this. In doing so, it can also play an important role in conserving important wildlife and ecosystems from charismatic creatures like elephants and rhino to whale sharks and some of the most dense and diverse birdlife on the planet,” said Mr Steiner, also a UN Under-Secretary General.

According to official statistics, to be presented in Berlin this week by the Kenya delegation, 2007 saw a record number of over a million international tourists arrive in the country by air and by sea—a rise of 10 per cent over 2006.

But since the disputed election result in December 2007, numbers have fallen precipitously and it is forecast that an average of 9,000 visitors will come each month over the first quarter of 2008—a drop of over 90 per cent and an expected loss of 5.5 billion Kenya shillings.

Conservation Challenges from Revenue Declines

The Kenya Wildlife Service, which last year posted record revenues of $28 million, is also suffering and an order for over 200 vehicles needed for anti-poaching patrols and other important conservation work has just been shelved.

The decline in tourism-related revenues may also damage important conservation work according to experts.

These include a captive black rhino breeding programme launched six months ago aimed at boosting the number of animals to 700 in five years, up from 540 now.

Wide-spread poaching reduced the country’s rhino population from an estimated 20,000 in the 1970s to below 350. But anti-poaching and other initiatives including rhino sanctuaries have brought the number back up to around 540.

Other pioneering initiatives that may be at risk include community projects, species translocation schemes and one to test new ideas to reduce human-animal conflicts in and around the Amboseli National Park, home to some 1,500 elephants.

These include chili tobacco ropes which can help deter elephants from spoiling farmland, simple but ingenious alarm systems for farmers using trip wires that ring bicycle bells in the farm house and fireworks that can scare animals away.

Mr Steiner said: “Indeed it is an overall measure of KWS’s success that elephant populations in Kenya have risen recently by four per cent following years of successful anti-poaching and other management. This rise comes at the very moment when revenues are suddenly suffering as a result of the post-election crisis”.

Wider Environmental Impacts

The African Wildlife Foundation is also concerned about the impact of falling tourist numbers on a strong of recently established conservancies.

The case of the Ol Pejata Conservancy in Laikipia underlines the challenge. Established in 2004, it is the largest private run conservation project for the Black Rhino in Africa with 77 animals.

Richard Vigne, the Conservancy’s chief executive officer, said the project employed 600 people many of whom are drawn from the local community.

He said running a conservancy with rhino cost 2.5 times the cost of managing the same area of land without the animals.

Mr Vigne said the decline in tourism was affecting some 60 per cent of the not-for-profit conservancy’s revenue alongside important community outreach.

Ol Pejata has raised over $1 million for local community work over the past three years from donors and there is concern that future support may now be at risk.


Around 8% of Kenya’s land area is held in protected areas. Nairobi National Park (117 square km) was the first to be established in 1947.

Kenya Wildlife Service is a State agency mandated to preserve Kenya’s wildlife and its habitat and display it in its natural form. Kenya depends on non consumptive uses of wildlife resources especially in the form of tourism.

In the financial year 2006/2007, tourism accounted for 20 per cent of government income. Under Kenya’s Vision 2030 economic blueprint to make the county a middle level economy, tourism will play a central role. Wildlife based tourism accounts for about 75 per cent of all tourist visitors to Kenya.

Kenya’s wildlife plays a central role in the economy, especially in the support of livelihoods. KWS manages four of the country’s five major water towers, the sources of hydroelectric power, protects fish breeding sites, protects forests which are a source of rain for agriculture, protects invaluable biodiversity in protected areas

Tourism is also the main source of revenue for Kenya Wildlife Service (Statistics attached).The revenue is used to manage wildlife, its habitat, and wildlife research, support community projects, among other activities.

Recently, the General Election dispute in Kenya caused a sudden drop in tourism activities in national parks and reserves by about 80 per cent.


2003 777,631.00 82,126.00 395,090.00 1,253,728.00
2004 797,801.00 78,067.00 526,425.00 1,402,293.00
2005 957,765.00 76,609.00 640,729.00 1,675,103.00
2006 940,019.00 84,914.00 756,815.00 1,781,748.00
2007 1,059,038.00 73,957.00 765,652.00 1,898,647.00