KWS seeks private investors to run national parks, reserves


Buffalos at Nairobi National Park. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is seeking partnership with private investors to run national parks and reserves in a bid to upgrade luxury lodges, restaurants and tented camps and cut reliance on taxpayers.

The private sector will manage the park entry fees, digitise payments, installation of internet service, build lodges and hotels, as well as roads within the parks, while KWS will focus on security and conservation, and not management.

Tourism CS Najib Balala said the State is unable to fund and manage the parks due to depressed revenues leading to degradation of tourism attractions sites.

Kenya tourism has been ravaged by the coronavirus crisis that triggered a slump in travel, slashing KWS earnings from park entry fees.

“We plan to remodel our businesses. We cannot continue the same way we used to do business both in tourism or in the wildlife sector,” he said in an interview.

“The parks will remain national assets. One clear thing is that we are not selling and we are not privatising. The parks are dying and we are actually going down. The numbers are declining and we have no revenue and money to maintain the parks.”

It will be modelled on how conservancies such as Ol Pejeta and Lewa are run, with the private sector sharing revenues with the State. Under a previous deal, successful bidders were to run the luxury eco-lodges and tented camps on an initial 20-year-lease that is renewable for another six years, while those seeking to build restaurants and cafes will get leases for 10 to 13 years, same as those seeking to construct recreation areas.

The luxury lodges and tented camps were to be built on between five and 20 acres depending on location of the parks.

Restaurants and cafes will be built on between one and five acres of land depending on location. The successful bidders will be required to set aside jobs for the local communities and provide other benefits.