Founded in 1996 as Ecotourism Society of Kenya (ESOK) and later adapting the name Ecotourism Kenya (EK) in 2006, EK was the first ecotourism society in Africa and a leader in the fields of voluntary tourism certification, and community asset building through tourism projects.
It is also involved in sustainable tourism planning, and campaigns, community mobilization and sensitization, product identification and development and environmental/social audits.
EK works in partnership with many professionals from its membership. It enjoys support from the Ministry of Tourism, Kenya Tourism Board and tourism practitioners. It has over the years enjoyed support from development partners including UNDP, NEMA, Tourism Fund, CBI Netherlands, AWF and FORD Foundation. With nineteen years of experience in ecotourism, EK has an intimate understanding of both the complexities and unique opportunities that ecotourism can provide to local populations, the environment, investors and the business of tourism.
Through a strong social, business and environmental awareness EK has been able to cater for its membership and industry. It has provided relevant and practical guidance for attaining sustainable solutions to challenging issues in tourism development to both communities and tourism practitioners.
Equally important has been the creation of lasting partnerships with tourism practitioners and interested parties. EK acts as the confluence of the tourism industry, communities and conservation while promoting responsible management of resources.
Ecotourism Kenya is a membership organization and is one of seven private-sector associations that make up the Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF).
As a membership organization, Ecotourism Kenya brings together individuals, Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and tourism businesses in a forum where they discuss the concept of ecotourism and use the resultant knowledge to improve their operations towards best practices.
Ecotourism Kenya currently has a membership of approximately 550 individuals, companies, community based organizations. These members hold an Annual general Meeting (AGM) once every year and elect a Management Board which takes up the role of an Executive Committee mandated with the task of providing overall strategic guidance including approving plans and budgets.
Ecotourism Kenya’s membership is spread throughout the country, therefore the organisation has a countrywide reach and representation.
The EK team
The organization has a secretariat of 7 permanent staff members who have been mandated to execute activities of Ecotourism Kenya as outlined in the strategic plan. The secretariat is headed by the Chief Executive Officer who provides liaison between the management board and the secretariat. Other staff in the secretariat include: Membership & Communication Officer; Eco-rating Officer; Assistant Eco-rating Officer; Finance and Administrative Officer; Project Coordinator; Office Assistant/Driver.
The organisation has 5 main advisory sub-committees, that offer support to the Management Board and technical advice to the Ecotourism Kenya Secretariat in conducting the Organisations mandate. These sub-committees are:
Ecotourism Kenya is guided by the following principles:
To be a leader in the knowledge and practice of responsible tourism.
To link tourism, conservation and communities for sustainable tourism development through awareness creation, networking and promotion of best practices in responsible tourism operations.
EK’s strategic goal is to promote responsible tourism practices that will conserve Kenya’s natural environment and improve livelihoods of associated communities.
This is enhanced through the following strategic goals:
Enhance Industry Standards and Best Practices
Increase Awareness and Share Information on Quality Tourism Sites, Products and Services
Nurture Appropriate Leadership Skills, Knowledge and Attitude in Responsible Tourism
Strengthen Ecotourism Organizations’ Conservation Capacity and Sustainability
Improve Community Tourism Enterprises
Our policy is to ensure incorporation of sound environmental and social practices in new and existing tourism enterprises. We seek to increase recognition of environmental and social issues in the development of tourism in Kenya and in all work that we undertake. Toward this end, we intend to remain at the forefront in the implementation of environmental best practices in tourism development, and to promote social responsible practices applicable to tourism.
Ecotourism Kenya works with various partners to provide the desired output of fostering sustainable development. The key is in the formation of linkages. Ecotourism has worked with the following partners at various levels:
ANVR (Association of Dutch tour operators)
East African Wildlife Society (EAWLS)
Federation of Community Tourism Organisations (FECTO)
Institute for Legal and Environmental Governance (ILEG)
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Kenya Bureau of Standards (KBS)
Kenya Community Based Tourism Network (KECOBAT)
Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF)
Kenya Tourist Board (KTB)
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS)
Ministry of Tourism, Kenya
National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), among others
Nature Kenya (EK)
SNV – Netherlands
The African Conservation Centre (ACC)
The International Ecotourism Society (TIES)
United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)
United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)
Watamu Marines Association (WMA)
Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA)
To support the activities of Ecotourism Kenya, the Association relies on grants and donations, membership support and revenue from programme activities. The donors that EK has worked with to fund the Community Based Program have included both government and private sector sources. Some of them include: