KWS increases park fees in race to grow income

United Kingdom students watching birds at the Lake Nakuru National Park. Visitors to parks will pay more. FILE
United Kingdom students watching birds at the Lake Nakuru National Park. Visitors to parks will pay more. FILE 

Visitors to Kenya’s game parks will now pay more after the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) raised its charges by up to 100 per cent.

The changes are contained in a Friday gazette notice signed by the Environment secretary Judi Wakhungu and backdated to December 23—meaning the new rates take effect immediately.

The new rates are expected to lift the revenues of KWS, the game parks’ custodian, and reduce its reliance on Treasury—whose support account for about a third of the firm’s income.

Local visitors will now pay Sh200 more to access the parks, raising the entry charge between Sh500 and Sh1,200 depending on ranking of the KWS facilities.

Foreign visitors will pay $10 (Sh868) more with entry to premium parks like Amboseli and Lake Nakuru increasing to $90 (Sh7,812) while those to the wilderness Parks—Tsavo East, Tsavo West, Meru and Kora—will rise to $75 (Sh6,510).

Foreign students and children will bear the biggest brunt after their entry charges were doubled to $40 (Sh3,472) to the Nairobi National Park and $55 (Sh4,774).

Local students who have been paying a flat rate of Sh200 will now pay between Sh300 and Sh350 depending on the ranking of the parks.

KWS is eyeing a larger revenue base to fund its wildlife conservation efforts at a time when increased poaching is putting a strain on its resources. It earned Sh4.2 billion in park entry fees in the year ended June 2012, pushing its total income to Sh4.7 billion in the period.

Its total expenses, however, surpassed the income at Sh6.4 billion, leaving the State-owned firm with a Sh1.6 billion operating deficit.

This saw it rely on grants from donors and the government allocation amounting to Sh1.9 billion that left it with a surplus of Sh271.4 million in the period. KWS says its priority is to maintain parks and protect the wildlife that forms Kenya’s key attraction as a tourist destination.

Security fears in the region coupled by the soft euro economy have led to the underperformance of the tourism sector, which look set to dim KWS numbers.

Rhinos and elephants have been killed in the past one year in an escalation of poaching that has been linked to increased demand for ivory and animal horns in Asian markets.

KWS has been working on opening new parks and expanding the existing ones with the acquisition of land.