How pro-poor is rural tourism in Kenya? Exploring methodologies for sustainable models of Social, Economic and Cultural inclusiveness


Rural Tourism is a type of tourism activity in which the visitor’s experience is related to a wide range of products generally linked to nature-based undertakings, agriculture, rural lifestyle / culture, fishing and exploration.  Rural Tourism activities take place in non-urban (rural) areas with the following characteristics: i) low population density, ii) landscape and land-use dominated by agriculture and forestry and iii) traditional social structure and lifestyle. Pro-poor tourism is therefore focused on making tourism work for the poor. This can also be referred to as inclusive tourism.  It can be viewed as a tool for poverty alleviation among communities which exist around or within tourism destinations.

 Moi University in partnership with University of Strathclyde, hosted a whole day’s stakeholders’ workshop on Tuesday 5th March 2019 at The Clarion Hotel, Nairobi.  The workshop brought together different stakeholders in a format that allowed for discussion and interaction on how to enhance local economic development of communities in tourism areas.  Some of the stakeholders were from the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Academia, Private Sector Associations within Kenya’s tourism industry, Sustainable Tourism consultants and experts from tourism related professions.

Ecotourism Kenya was accorded adequate representation as the CEO together with the Research and Advocacy Program Officer attended the workshop. This workshop was significant to Ecotourism Kenya as it focused on local communities’ inclusion in tourism research. This goes in line with the organization’s mission to link tourism, conservation and communities for sustainable tourism development through awareness creation, networking and promotion of best practices in responsible tourism operations.

The workshop initiated discussions organized in such a way that plenaries were followed with open forum question & answer sessions to enable participant share their views and suggestions in reaction to the presentations.  The workshop had four main presentations that provided great insights on inclusion of communities in tourism development and research.

Some of the highlights of the topical presentations were captured at a glance as follows:

1.Research Focus, types and methodologies used by KTB in market research by: Mr. Noah Otieno (Ag. Research Manager at Kenya Tourism Board

KTB mainly does market research for marketing purposes. Their focus areas for research include tourism performance, experiences, market insights and consumer segments. Their research methodology slightly differs from the academic research methodology as a result of their intended purposes of conducting the research. They have the primary, secondary and bench marking methodologies.

KTB recently held a 2nd National Symposium for County Experience Teams on the theme “Building the competitive advantage of Kenya in tourism through the top experiences program”. This mission was driven by the need to promote visibility of counties as tourism destinations in the course of representation of Kenya as a brand. As a result of the symposium it was determined that local community involvement is the key prerequisite for sustainable tourism.

2. Community Inclusivity in Tourism Research by: Mr. Jackson Mwato (Executive Director Amboseli Ecosystem Trust – AET)

It was evident that communities benefit largely from leasing land to group ranches. AET was reported to have 7 community owned group ranches and 17 community conservancies. Around 433 individuals from the communities are employed as rangers at AET. Amboseli hosts only 30 tourism facilities in the ecosystem. This stands as a commitment to conservation and an intervention to reduce impacts of human activities on the ecosystem. The Trust was further mentioned to have well-structured and functional human wildlife conflict response protocols that helps in maintaining the ecosystem’s inseparable man biosphere nature.  It also has a resource center at Nongotiak with useful research materials.

There was a further mention on the unfortunate “Reverse Trade” that the local communities are faced with. This appeared as one of the most difficult situations facing the AET in their mission to ensure the local communities benefit from the revenue tourists pay to enter a Maasai village. However, interventions are being implemented to try and curb this unfair treatment of villages by the tour drivers..

3. Research focus, types and methodologies used by KWS in community-wildlife interaction studies by: Mr. Vasco Nyaga

This presentation was based on the case of Maasai Mara National Reserve. It had insights on wildlife monitoring and ecosystem conservation.  This topic was relevant to the theme of the workshop as it drew the role of KWS in community inclusivity in their operations. The vision of KWS is “To sustainably conserve, manage, and enhance Kenya’s wildlife, its habitats, and provide a wide range of public uses in collaboration with stakeholders for posterity”.

Local communities are part of the stakeholders and KWS ensures that their well-being is addressed in as much as wildlife conservation is concerned. Mr. Vasco mentioned the role of Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association in overseeing the management of community owned conservancies.  It was mentioned that there are over 300 tourism facilities in the Mara. There was further assessment of wildlife’s behavioural change to human land use practices like fencing, agriculture, livestock rearing etc.

4. How tour operators incorporate communities in designing and executing tour packages by: Dan Kikemu – DK Safaris

Tour operators are known to be at the center of tourism business in Kenya. They command a great influence on the whole tourism supply chain by linking the consumers or other the tourists to their suppliers. These include the destinations in which cultural villages occupied by local communities are part, accommodation facilities like hotels, camps and lodges, and their immediate interactions like the tour guides and driver guides.  The role of tour operators in upholding best practices in the destinations, during the tour and even after has a big impact on sustainable tourism achievement. The most recent policies that tour operators have aided in efficient implementation include the ban of plastic straws and bottles.

They have then influenced tourists as well as the hotels they work with to adopt best practices such as use of reusable or refillable steel, aluminium and glass bottles during safaris and in their accommodation places. Some tour operators committed to sustainability have made great progresses towards conservation and are ambassadors of sustainable tourism. The topic’s relevance to the theme was exhibited at the point of assurance that most credible tour operators ensure they include and engage local communities in the course of their operations. They include village visits in their itineraries as they sell their tour packages and this benefit the local communities.

Other Significant Matters that Arose as a Result of the Workshop Include:

  • There is need to practice inclusive tourism that brings on board communities in a traditional yet effective approach of storytelling. It would be better to give an open forum for the communities to share their story and say what they want and what their opinion is on past projects. This would serve as an alternative for the conventional way of subjecting communities to questionnaires during collection of data during research.
  • It would be functional to develop sustainable progressive policies and marketing strategies that give a daily thought to the impact of tourism to livelihoods of the local communities. Mega data is based on numbers but the specific impacts cannot be felt.
  • Capacity building through trainings and awareness creation campaigns for personal and professional development of the local communities is essential. A very successful example is that of Koiyaki Guiding School in the Maasai Mara.
  • Community Based Tourism Organizations really need technical support for product development, management, and financial organization among other governance issues. This was evidently depicted when members of the Kisite Community Boat Operators and the representative of Wasini Women Group shared their experiences.

Thank you!

Compiled By:

The Research and Advocacy Team

programs@ecotourismkenya.org

«Information for Capacity Building»

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