The Kenya Wildlife Service is targeting transit passengers to grow revenues from visits to the Nairobi National Park.
“What we are trying to do is to have passengers get out of the planes, come over to the park, have lunch, do some shopping in town and then go back,” Mr Julius Kipng’etich, the CEO of KWS, said.
Currently, the law allows only the nationals of 35 Commonwealth states to enter the country without a visa.
Mr Kipng’etich said KWS was in talks with the Ministry of Immigration and Registration of Persons to issue a waiver with regard to visa rules for stopover passengers who wish to visit the park during the hours when they await to travel to their next destination.
“This project is part of the redesign of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. We want the tourists to be able to deposit their passports at the airport after which they will be allowed to temporarily visit the park,” he said.
Park entry fees is the chief source of revenue for KWS, and through the project, expected to start next year on a pilot basis, KWS expects to boost its earnings.
According to data from the Kenya Tourism Board, 44,636 transit passengers arrived at JKIA in 2007, rising to 81,687 in 2008 and dropping to 68,752 last year.
KWS charges about Sh3,100, Sh1,560, and Sh1,160 as park entry fee for each foreign adult, child, and student respectively.
Other value added services like guided tour rides attract higher charges.
The park manager’s revenues took a hit from the economic slowdown seen in 2008 when its park entry fee was Sh1.58 billion compared to Sh2.2 billion in 2007 — the year when the economy and the tourism sector both recorded peak performance of seven per cent growth.
While the park has a potential client base of over three million residents living close to it, few take their time to visit the park.
“We have profiled local visitors to the park and what is surprising is that a majority of them are people from the slums. The middle class are apparently staying away,” Kipng’etch said.
He added that the initiative to have transit passengers visit the park may face the challenge of traffic jams along Mombasa Road and expressed optimism that the ongoing road construction efforts will have alleviated the problem by the time the project takes root.
Apart from KWS, the move will benefit hoteliers and transport solution providers who will be roped in to provide a comprehensive and fast service package for the tourists.
KWS borrows from trends in other markets where transit passenger are exempt from visa rules for tourism purposes as long as their presence in the host country is not deemed as a threat.
While announcing the new business plan for the park, Kipng’etich added that KWS, in collaboration with the private sector will plant a 30 kilometre belt of trees from Athi River to Carnivore in a bid to protect the park from encroachment.
Rapid urbanisation, which has caused a rush for land, has seen more factories and human settlement closing in on the park that houses the big five – elephants, lions, buffaloes, rhinos, and leopards.
The tree planting, supported by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, will cost Sh40 million, with up to 250,000 trees expected to be planted.