Kenya Tourism Bill 2010 Petition

To Hon. Chris Okemo, M.P.,. Chair, Finance, Planning and Trade

Dear Sir,

The tourism bill published in Kenya Gazette supplement No. 84 (Bills No. 21),  has gone through the first parliamentary readings and is now at your honourable committee stage. This Bill has pertinent issues that demand your urgent attentionis.

Even though we acknowledge that the Tourism Bill  is good effort of the Ministry of Tourism and stakeholders to develop a legal framework to regulate the growth and development of the industry. It must be appreciated that Tourism is one of the major foreign exchange earners in Kenya, being the second to agricultural sector. It contributes to at least 10% of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In the light of this, the spirit and principles of this bill must first and foremost be to champion and safeguard growth and expansion of an industry with equitable distribution of resources. Secondly the bill must lay the ground for sustainability of its natural resource base. Thirdly the spirit and principles of the new constitutional dispensation which is the supreme law of the land must be in harmony with this bill. Any deviation thereof, to this order is not only contradictory but bad in every sense of the word.

However, a critical examination of this Bill brings out scaring and glaring implications that were not eadequatelly valuated against critical principles, criteria and best practices.  Against this backdrop the signatories to this petition and representatives of regional associations, community based associations have the following implications to bring to your kind attention.

Our concerns on the tourism Bill 2010 are as follows:

  1. The Bill goes against the spirit and the letter of the constitution by advocating for centralizes institutions and omitting critical provisions for Regional Tourism Boards to form part of the Kenya Tourism Board as stipulated in the previous drafts.
  2. Though the Sessional Paper No.1 of 2010 recognizes the close linkages between tourism to ecological sustainable development of the country’s natural and heritage resources, the Bill fails to provide any institutional arrangement to safeguard them or put in place the necessary funding instruments to actualize the same on a sustainable manner
  3. The Sessional Paper further underpins the need to enhance sustainable tourism in Kenya as guided by the Sessional Paper’s title. The Bill fails to recognize communities who constitute one of the three pillars for sustainable tourism as defined by the UN.
  4. Both the tourism Bill and policy alienate communities from mainstream industry and does develop any institutional framework and affirmative action mechanisms for their integration. These communities are the owners, custodians and exporters of the tourism product. Eventhough this vital constituency at the bottom of the tourism pyramid shoulders most of the tourism costs, they do not accrue commensurate benefits from the industry and the Bill does not give them any consideration.
  5. Both the tourism Bill and the sessional paper No 1 of 2010 do not provide for provisions for SME’s, Community tourism Entrepreneurs and the informal sectors for accessing financial and advisory services;
  6. The Bills inadequate provision of a standard education and training curriculum and examination suitable for SME’s in Kenya who require short tailor made in-situ courses.
  7. Lack of Recognition for County Governments who are custodians of critical tourism assets and have constitutional mandate to regulate tourism activities in their jurisdictions.
  8. In part Xi of the Bill on Transitional and Repeal provisions in Section 133 , the bill seems to deliberately leave out the Tourism Trust Fund and the Bomas of Kenya which is worrisome to us as the stakeholders who were benefactors of TTF because all the gains realized by communities and regional associations are put at stake
  9. No provisions under the transitional clause of the Bill for specific timelines for the bill to take effect and give absolute discretion to the Minister.

The bill assumes that Kenya can attain sustainable tourism by concentrating on environmental /ecological sustainability and economic development while overlooking socio cultural sustainability/social justice. This situation is regrettable to say the least. It should be remembered that the  infamous 1997 Likoni clashes which brought the whole industry on its knees for close to six years was motivated by social injustice. The clashes provided the coastal communities with a way of ventilating their frustrations of having ‘outsiders’ generating wealth from their ancestral resources while they wallow in abject poverty. This is just but one example. Several cases of people deliberately converting prime wildlife land to farm lands, burning of tourism investors’ property, grazing livestock in the parks with impunity, killing of prides of Lions in Kitengela etc. are just but a few examples of defiance signaling dissatisfaction, frustration and rebellion. The bill has no option but to address to social inequality perpetuated by tourism. It should be understood that from the just concluded population census, tourism rich areas has the highest prevalence of poverty in Kenya. This situation is regrettable, embarrassing and ultimately untenable. It is a time-bomb that the Bill must address urgently.

In view of the above, we call on you to sign the petition in order to make tourism an industry that addresses to the needs and aspirations of Kenyans and a cash-cow for the rich, connected elites and their foreign cronies.

 Signed by the Kenya Community Based Tourism Network

Ole Taiko Lemayian    Contact the author of the petition