Ministry cracks whip on unlicensed hotels

Wednesday March 3 2010

Tourism minister Najib Balala. He says his ministry will crack down on hotels, lodges, and camps operating illegally. Photo/File

Tourism minister Najib Balala. He says his ministry will crack down on hotels, lodges, and camps operating illegally. Photo/File 

By MATHIAS RINGA

The government will, from March 15, shut down all unlicensed tourist establishments, a Cabinet minister has said.

Mr Najib Balala of Tourism said his ministry would crack down on hotels, lodges, and camps operating illegally.

He said the crackdown would start in the world famous Maasai Mara game reserve following reports that most camps and lodges there were not licensed.

An inter-ministerial audit revealed that of the 108 camps and lodges in the game reserve, only 29 per cent were licensed.

Most of the establishments do not pay tax, depriving the government of millions of shillings in revenue, while others have not carried out an environmental impact assessment.

The tourist concerns at Maasai Mara have about 4,000 beds.

Mr Balala, said: “From March 15, the government will shut down hotels, lodges, and camps that are operating illegally.

“It is disappointing that some camps and lodges at Maasai Mara operate without licences. And to make matters worse, these establishments fail to pay taxes to the government.

“Our starting point will be at Maasai Mara where some units have flouted licensing, tax, and environment laws. We cannot sit back and watch a few individuals destroy our industry.”

The minister made the remarks at a tourism stakeholders meeting at the Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort in Mombasa.

Participants were drawn from the ministries of Tourism, Roads, Water, and Transport, the Kenya Tourist Board, Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association, Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers, and Kenya Association of Tour Operators.

Mr Balala ordered Coast region tourist officer Lillian Ayimba to crack down on the owners of villas and cottages that operate illegally.

Mr Mohamed Hersi, president of the Kenya Chapter of Skal International, an organisation of tourism executives in over 80 countries, supported the planned crackdown.

He said the illegal tourist establishments were creating unfair competition for hotels, which pay taxes.

“As you deal firmly with illegal businesses at Maasai Mara, we would also like the government to shut down villas and cottages at the Coast which are unlicensed and pay no taxes,” the hotelier said.