1.1 Background Information
The Green Destinations Guidelines development for Kenya was initiated in August 2015 following consultations between EK and AWF. Its intention was to establish a program for formal recognition of Green Destinations in Kenya. EK was identified as the implementer and custodian of the process whereas AWF among other partners would support the process with financial resources. Green destinations guidelines drafting process has been anchored on existing established and reputable destination guidelines from the GSTC. The guidelines were reviewed and revised with consideration of stakeholders’ inputs and adapted to reflect the local socioeconomic, cultural, environmental, and legal operations.
Various activities were initiated to commence the project beginning with the inception of the PIC. The PIC was constituted with the oversight mandate in the project implementation. Its membership drew 14 organizations with expertise from tourism, conservation, academia and local community. EK was unanimously endorsed in the initial PIC meeting as the chair to the PIC. Terms of Reference for the PIC were developed and a work endorsed to facilitate the process.
EK while operationalizing the project organized and convened several workshops and forums to engage a diverse range of stakeholders in the industry. They also involved a series of consultative meeting with the PIC to harmonize the input of the various stakeholders. During the initial stakeholders workshop at AWF HQ in Nairobi, 38 participants attended drawn from both the public and private sectors working in conservation, tourism and community levels. The workshop briefed the participants on the proposed project and identified benefits accruing from the Green Destinations initiative. Participants were informed of the proposed piloting of the project and their feedback was used to enhance developed tools in readiness for the pilot phase.
Through an EOI invitations and selection process, 10 select destinations were subjected to the pilot phase of the green destinations guidelines. The process was intended to establish the relevance, applicability and gaps of the draft proposal. Two regions were selected identified as: the Northern region comprising of Samburu and environs; the Southern region comprising of Amboseli and the environs. Target destinations as per the definition of the guidelines were national parks/ reserves, community and private conservancies. The selection criteria emphasized that community interests had to be very well represented.
A two day induction workshop for destination managers (19 destination representatives in attendance) and assessors was convened to familiarise pilot destinations with the guidelines, tools and evaluation process. On 7th to 18th December 2015 pilot assessments were conducted on eight (8) destinations; four (4) in the Northern region and the other four in the Southern region. A team of assessors made site visits assessing each of the eight (8) destinations against set criteria; reports were compiled and shared during the national stakeholders meeting held in April 2016 at AWF HQ.
The pilot phase culminated with a stakeholder’s validation workshop for final input and endorsement on Green Destinations Guidelines.
1.2 Green Destinations Guidelines for Kenya
Knowledge and practice of sustainable development is on the rise. Tourism has not been left behind in the quest for a ‘greener’ world. Significant effort has been put in developing programs to safeguard the natural, social and human resources that support tourism. The whole concept of safeguarding resources through responsible consumption is variously referred to as sustainable tourism, ecotourism, responsible tourism, green tourism, ethical tourism, geo-tourism, etc. Despite the different names, all these terms put emphasis on responsible consumption and production.
Ecotourism Kenya (EK) is the organisation championing sustainable tourism practices in Kenya. Through a voluntary certification scheme for accommodation facilities, it has contributed to the awareness and knowledge of sustainable tourism. There are more than 100 accommodation facilities in Kenya, certified under this EK eco-rating scheme. Lessons learnt from 14 years of operating the voluntary certification for accommodation facilities point to a need to expand the program to destinations. This is because the overall sustainability of destination Kenya cannot be achieved through certification of accommodation facilities only. There has to be involvement of destinations. When destinations are green (have set standards for responsible consumption and production), it follows that tourism operations in those destinations will follow suite.
These green guidelines mark the beginning of a new chapter in Kenya’s quest to become a sustainable destination. The guidelines have been tested through a pilot program in Samburu and Amboseli regions and reviewed through several stakeholders meetings in selected counties to arrive at consensus on relevance of focal areas and key indicators for measuring compliance. It is worth noting that these guidelines are anchored on reputable destination guidelines from Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), but have been adapted to compliment Kenya’s socio-cultural, ecological, legal, and operational realities in management of destinations.
The advantage of being certified or recognised as a Green destination is the acquisition of a premium identity. This identity enables a destination to attract like-minded travellers who pay premium prices, attract partners including development / conservation organisations and social philanthropists, as well as credible investors. There are many quantifiable and non-quantifiable benefits that can be measured through monitoring. More so, we must care for the universe because there is only one planet with 7 billion consumers, we need to be responsible consumers.
1.3 Focal Areas of the Guidelines
The guidelines focus on the following critical areas in destination management
A. Sustainable Management Of Natural Resources
B. Good Governance And Management
C. Sustainable Tourism Programs
D. Community Development & Empowerment
E. Financial Sustainability
F. Sustainable Cultural, Archaeological And Historical Resource Management
H. Sustainable Management Of Other Enterprises
I. Monitoring & Evaluation