Monday, January 13, 2014

Protests as KWS raises park charges

Amboseli National Park.  Serengeti national park charges $50 (Sh4,345) compared to Amboseli and Lake Nakuru parks which have been charging $80 (Sh6,952 before VAT).  PHOTO/FILE

Amboseli National Park. Serengeti national park charges $50 (Sh4,345) compared to Amboseli and Lake Nakuru parks which have been charging $80 (Sh6,952 before VAT). PHOTO/FILE 

By SAMUEL KARANJA
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By MATHIAS RINGA
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The Kenya Wildlife Service has increased fees for tourists visiting national parks, game reserves and other wildlife sanctuaries, sparking an outcry from key players in the tourism sector.

The new fees arise from a 16 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) imposed on tourism activities following the implementation of the VAT Act 2013 in September last year.

In an advertisement published Monday, KWS said that nature lovers will pay more starting this month for visits to the national parks, game reserves and sanctuaries that it manages.

“KWS would like to inform our esteemed clients that all conservation fees for national parks, reserves and sanctuaries under KWS management will be adjusted to include 16 per cent VAT from January 2014,” said the notice published in Monday’s Daily Nation.

In the past, East African citizens and residents were paying Sh1,000 for a day’s ticket to prime parks like Amboseli while non-residents were paying $80. These fee has now gone up by 16 per cent to account for VAT.

Adults visiting wilderness parks like Tsavo East and West were paying Sh500 for East African citizens, Sh1,000 for residents and $65 for non-residents.

All these charges have gone up with a brochure published online indicating that those visiting Amboseli or Nakuru National Parks will pay Sh1,200 for residents; those visiting wilderness parks like Tsavo East and West will pay Sh600. Before the VAT law was passed, entry fees to KWS managed parks were tax exempt.

Players in the tourism industry at the Coast expressed outrage at the increase. The said the region was already losing potential tourists to Tanzania where game parks charge relatively lower fees compared to Kenya.

Ms Monika Solanki, the Kenya Association of Tour Operators (Kato) Coast branch chairperson, said the number of tourists visiting parks and game reserves will decline further due to the higher fees.

South Africa, Namibia and Botswana are other destinations competing against Kenya for tourist numbers.

The VAT charge will also apply any other service offered inside the parks, according to KWS communications officer Paul Mbugua.

“Of course any increase in fees will attract complaints from visitors and some people might opt not to visit,” Mr Mbugua told the Nation Monday. “Our rates are relatively favourable compared to what our neighbouring countries charge.”

Ms Solanki said Serengeti national park charges $50 (Sh4,345) compared to Amboseli and Lake Nakuru parks which have been charging $80 (Sh6,952 before VAT). Tanzania’s Lake Manyara park charges $35 while Kenya’s Tsavo East and West national parks will be charging $65 for non-residents.

Kenya has a total of 54 national parks and reserves with the largest of these parks being Tsavo East and West national parks.

Ms Solanki said hotels at the Coast will be hit by a shortage of guests because tourists heading to cheaper Tanzanian parks could opt for hotels in Zanzibar which also has beautiful beaches.

“The few tourists who will be coming to the Coast will decide to spend their time in the hotels rather than go on safaris,” she said and warned that KWS’s revenue collection could fall due to a decline in the number of visitors to the parks.

Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association (MCTA) chairman Mohamed Hersi said the new fees will make Kenya the most expensive tourist destination in Africa.

The increment, he said, comes at a time when the number of international tourist arrivals has declined owing to terrorism threats and the economic recession in European.

Mr Hersi, who is also the Heritage Hotels chief executive officer, said the sector might suffer a setback as potential tourists will opt to go to Tanzania for safaris and Zanzibar for leisure holidays.

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast branch executive officer Sam Ikwaye said the tax should be shelved until the industry recovers from the slump experienced last year.

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