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National park visitors rise 70pc on global travel boost

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Tourists at the Masai Mara. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The number of visitors to national parks rose by 69.5 percent last year, highlighting the resumption of global travel and interest in visiting attraction sites by locals.

The visitations, which reached 2.17 million up from 1.28 million in 2021, were 4.2 percent shy of the high of 2.27 million recorded in 2019.

The number of Kenyans visiting museums and heritage sites more than doubled to 850,359 with the Nairobi National Museum and Snake Park leading with 23 percent of total visitations followed by Kisumu Museum and Fort Jesus at 20 percent each.

Read: KWS raises park fees for foreign visitors 

This comes after increasing visits amid resuming local and global travel in 2022 after falling sharply in the two preceding years due to the pandemic which has helped boost the tourism sector’s receipts to Sh268.09 billion, increasing by 83 percent from Sh146.51 billion in 2021.

Tourism ministry report shows Nairobi Mini Orphanage had the highest number of visitors at 348,565, a 79 percent growth from the previous year and overtaking Nairobi National Park, which had 280,412 visitors.

Others that had a high number of visitors included Kisumu Impala Sanctuary (235,041) and Lake Nakuru National Park (185,051), which overtook Amboseli Park (155,691) as compared to the previous year.

The increase in visits to parks comes after Kenya Wildlife Service raised park charges in July last year to generate additional income and improve the national parks’ infrastructure.

Nairobi National Park, for instance, now charges locals Sh430 per person for a safari, while non-residents pay Sh5,436 ($43).

The new prices run on a seasonal basis meaning high rates are applied during the high season from July to February and discounted rates for the low season between March to June.

The Tourism ministry also plans to cap the daily number of visitors allowed in some parks, including Amboseli and Nairobi National Park, to reduce high season over-crowding and enable all-year travel.

Read: Youth flock to museums, parks for selfies and learning

The cap will be placed at the park’s carrying capacity. This means that the high-volume parks –Masai Mara, Amboseli and Nairobi National Park— will not allow visitors above their capacity of 32,000, 13,0000 and 10,000 visitors per month respectively.

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