A lodge operator has warned violent skirmishes witnessed within private wildlife sanctuaries risk the annual Sh2 billion inflow into Laikipia County.
Jambo Chester Hotels and Resorts general manager Ben Katungi said the multi-billion shilling lodge and hotel investments and thousands of jobs were in danger as tourists shied away from the high-end Laikipia-based tourist resorts.
“Tourism earns Laikipia County over Sh2 billion and has created thousands of jobs for conservancy and resort staff (rangers, waiters, warders and tour guides) as well as indirect jobs in supplies, vehicle and air transport services, tour operators,” he said.
“We also support community projects such as building of schools and bore holes.”
Ten days ago, a bitter feud erupted between pastoralists seeking pasture for their livestock at the 43,495-acre Suiyian ranch during which a herder was shot dead, a lodge and property worth millions of shillings reduced to ashes.
In a statement, Mr Katungi said Laikipia County tourism stakeholders had also invested billions of shillings in conservation efforts, funding community welfare projects, generating revenue for the county government as well as putting Kenya’s tourism product on the world map.
“Laikipia County was voted by the New York Times as one of the best places to visit in the world in 2017 and this was the second time in as many years. As a result, stakeholders in Laikipia County came together and agreed to invest further to raise the standards as a way of improving the tourism product and experience,” he said.
Mr Katungi said such disputes could be addressed by training herders in modern pasture production methods as well as preservation.
He called on the government to help herders and lodge managers reach an amicable solution that would secure the future of tourist resorts and conservancies as well as create ample pasture and water reserves for the herders.
Laikipia has the highest number of world-class private conservancies in Kenya, mostly managed by family dynasties, including ADC Mutara, Ol Ari Ng’iro, Loisaba, Ol Maisor, Ol Pejeta, Lewa, Suiyian, Ol Jogi, and Solio Ranch.