Tourism players have supported Narok County government's move to suspend building of tourist facilities in the world-famous Maasai Mara National Reserve
On Wednesday, governor Samuel Tunai said the county government would not issue licences for construction of new camps and lodges in and outside the reserve, citing congestion.
The governor added that the county would demolish facilities that do not meet international standards.
He warned that overdevelopment posed a threat to sustainable conservation of the wildlife paradise.
On Thursday, officials of the Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF), Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) and Kenya Coast Tourism Association (KCTA) rallied behind Mr Tunai’s move to stop new developments in the Mara.
KTF chairman Mohamed Hersi said the stoppage of construction of new tourist facilities in the reserve was a step in the right direction.
“For years, we have been lobbying the county to stop new developments especially in areas that already have lodges and camps in the Mara ecosystem,” he said.
“Overdevelopment will definitely destroy the authenticity of the Mara, which is the best hotspot for game viewing in the world.”
Mr Hersi, who is also the chief executive of Sun Africa Hotels, said the halting of new developments would contain environmental degradation and boost conservation efforts.
The hotelier said the Kenya Tourism Federation would work hand in hand with the Narok County government in conserving the Mara ecosystem.
At the same time, Mr Hersi called on the Narok government to stop the construction of temporary camps in the Mara during peak season.
“There are some people, who put up temporary camps during high season so that they could reap big and then remove the structures during low season,” he said.
“This tendency is degrading the Mara ecosystem while at the same time it affects business in permanent camps and lodges. The temporary camps don’t support the local community too,” added.
KAHC Coast branch executive officer Sam Ikwaye also backed the governor, saying the move would protect the reserve from overdevelopment and environmental degradation.
“The Mara is the goose that lays the golden eggs. We must protect the reserve for local and international wildlife lovers to continue to enjoy game viewing as well as conserve wildlife for future generations,” he said.
The KAHC official noted that there was need for the county government and concerned parties to come together in conserving the hotspot for sustainable tourism development.
Kenya Coast Tourism Association chairman Victor Shitakha said the stoppage of development was a good move as it would address overcrowding in the game reserve.
He said there was need for the government to formulate a policy that would give direction on development in the national parks.
“There must be checks and balances on development on our national parks or else we shall cause harm to our wildlife heritage. When the parks are in ruin, tourists will no longer come for game viewing,” he warned.