The Case For The Redistribution Of Ecotourism Gains In Kenya.

3655 words - 15 pages

The Case for the Redistribution of Ecotourism Gains in Kenya.


Ecotourism, also known as “responsible tourism”, is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas, which conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people” . Ecotourism has become the fastest growing sub-sector of the tourist industry: in the Third World, it is growing at a rate of 6% per year . Bordering the Indian Ocean and located in Eastern Africa, Kenya reaps substantial benefits from ecotourism activities. Kenya’s rich biodiversity and natural resources allow it to earn as much as 1/3 of its total foreign exchange revenues from ecotourism . A recent study of game farming in Kenya has shown that wildlife tourism was fifty times more lucrative than cattle grazing and that an elephant herd was valued at $610,000 annually . Ecotourism will therefore play a predominant role in the country’s economic development. In order to assess the equity implications of ecotourism in Kenya, this paper will attempt to assess the distributional impacts of the policies local authorities have undertaken in Kenya to foster ecotourism and to propose suggested reforms and recommendations to help groups, who have traditionally been marginalized such as the Maasai.


Kenya was a protectorate and a British colony from the late 1890s to December 1963, when the country gained its independence. Although Kenya is a relatively stable country, it has only been governed by 3 Presidents (from only 2 political parties) since independence. With a population of 31.3 million people , Kenya is a multi-ethnic country, whose administrative arrangements closely parallel ethnic boundaries .

With a GNI/ capita of $360 , Kenya is still a low-income country by all standards. Its economy is reasonably diversified: agriculture that accounts for only 2% of GDP is the largest employer of the labor force in the country ; the industrial sector contributes about 19% of GDP ; Kenya is the third largest exporter of tea, which together with coffee and horticultural products made up 53% of all merchandise exports in 2002 . The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) found that tourism was Kenya’s most successful area of diversification. More than 50% of the earnings shown in the following table were generated by wildlife.

Table 1- Foreign Exchange Earnings From Tourism in Kenya, 1977-91
1977 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991
KES (billions) 0.96 4.18 4.92 5.84 6.98 8.64 10.66 11.88
US$ (millions) 129 239 306 355 394 420 444 333
Total visitors 344 377 542 587 616 696 740 727
Earnings per 375 501 564 605 640 603 600 458
visitor (US$)
Source: Statistical Abstract, Economic Survey 1992.

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