To Hon. Chris Okemo, M.P.,. Chair, Parliamentary Committee on Finance, Planning and Trade
The tourism bill published in Kenya Gazette supplements No. 84 (Bills No. 21), has gone through the first parliamentary readings and is now at your honorable committee able hands. This Bill has pertinent issues that demand your urgent attention.
Even though we acknowledge that the Tourism Bill is a good effort of the Ministry of Tourism and stakeholders to develop a legal framework to regulate the growth and development of this nascent industry. It must be appreciated that Tourism is one of the major foreign exchange earners in Kenya, being the second to agricultural sector. It contributes to at least 10% of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In the light of this, the spirit and principles of this bill must first and foremost be to champion and safeguard growth and expansion of an industry with equitable distribution of resources. Secondly the bill must lay the ground for sustainability of its natural resource base. Thirdly the spirit and principles of the new constitutional dispensation which is the supreme law of the land must be in harmony with this bill. Any deviation thereof, to this order is not only contradictory but bad in every sense of the word.
However, a critical examination of this Bill by Mt. Kenya Tourism Circuit Association brings out scaring and glaring implications that were not adequately valuated against critical principles, criteria and best practices. Against this backdrop the signatories to this petition and representatives of this regional association, have the following analysis and proposals to bring to your kind attention.
Kenya Tourism Bill 2010
This bill is an act of parliament to provide for the development, management, marketing and regulation of sustainable tourism – related activities and services, and for connected purpose. It consists of eleven parts and twelve schedules as follows:
Part I: Preliminaries
Part II: Formulation of National Tourism Strategy
Part III: Establishment of Tourism Regulatory, Development and Marketing Bodies
a) Tourism Regulatory Authority
b) Kenya Utalii College
c) Tourism Protection Service
d) Kenya Tourism Board
e) Kenyatta International Conference and Convention Centre
Part IV: Establishment of Tourism Research and Monitoring Institute
Part V: Establishment of Financial Bodies
a) The tourism Fund
b) The Tourism Finance Corporation
Part VI: Establishment of a Tribunal
Part VII: Tourism Licensing and Tax Provisions
b) Tourism Levy
c) Government Tax Incentives
Part VIII: Annual Estimates, Accounts and Audit Provisions
Part IX: Offences, Penalties and Enforcement
Part X: General Provisions
Part XI: Transitional and Repeal Provisions
Though the bill was formulated through an all inclusive participatory process, a critical reading show in our opinion, the end product displays a deliberate diversion from the spirit and aspiration of the rural community based and regional associations. The bill deviates from the draft validated earlier by an all inclusive assembly held at Utalii College Nairobi. That draft provided for the establishment of regional tourism boards empowered to market, regulate and empower communities.
This final product is a good receipt for consolidation of the status quo that over the years has failed to respect the role of tourism as that of restoring the integrity of the ecosystems upon which it derives its incomes, and denying ordinary Kenya’s an enabling environment to derive their livelihoods from the sector.
Some of the critical flaws in the bill include and are not limited to the following:
- The bill in the preliminary part defines sustainable tourism as “tourism development that meets the needs of present visitor and hosts while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future”. By failing to include a regulatory mechanism to ensure conservation of the environment, the bill falls short of its cardinal role. Tourism in this country has contributed significantly to the degradation of tourism areas and sites. In the past, the sector has relegated the task of conserving these areas and sites to the resident communities and benevolence of the private sector that do it for publicity. Earnings from the sector are never ploughed back to rehabilitate and conserve these sites. The only legally binding contribution yet not sufficient from the government is that of KWS which is specific to parks, and reserves in their jurisdiction. Another tangible contribution is that of NEMA. These efforts must be complimented by the bill in terms of a clear funding mechanism and enforcement such that the operator meets the cost. The failure by the bill to explicitly address this issue leads to a conclusion that the sector is there to reap benefits with minimal costs. Conserving the environment is not an optional extra but an ethical obligation to be guaranteed and enforced by the law.
- In part three, Establishment of Tourism Regulatory, Development and Marketing Bodies, the bill proposes the establishment of Kenya Tourism Board. While this is in order and most welcome, this final product of the consultative process has ignored critical recommendations of the grass root stakeholders and reinforced the position of a few players in the industry. The draft document presented at Utalii conference had proposed the establishment of regional bodies to complement KTB in its marketing mission. Experience has shown that a centralized approach to marketing of tourism is old fashioned and not in line with best practice. Leading tourism destinations like South Africa and United Kingdom no longer do it. The current approach is to decentralize to regions which in turn are reinforced by a national body. Diversifying tourism marketing has many advantages compared to a centralized approach:
(1) The richness of Kenya’s tourism lies in its diversity. Regional boards will be better placed to articulate that richness in domestic marketing and complementing KTB in international marketing.
(2) Regional tourism boards are the best instruments of articulating qualitative content of the products in their regions particularly those with cultural and experiential significances unknown to a professional trying to articulate it at a distance.
(3) Regional tourism boards will be most suitable outfits to enhance and spearhead intra-regional tourism leading to national integration and cohesion.
(4) Regional tourism boards will spearhead environment conservation and ensure sustainability of the industry which to a great extent is nature based.
(5) Regional tourism boards will demystify the industry which up to now has remained known to the locals as the business of “muzungu” watching animals in the parks. They will attract local ownership, and active participation by the local “Mwananchi” for economic growth and achievement of vision 2030.
(6) Regional tourism boards will reinforce and simplify not only the work of marketing but that of the regulatory authority. Their role will therefore be multidimensional.
Above all the centralized approach has not been so efficient and effective. The fact is that it has only managed to limit the country’s tourism products to two (wildlife and sun beaches). It has promoted two regions at the expense of all the others with a rich heritage and a diversity of attractive products for the tourist of today. The bill’s proposal is a deliberate deviation from the spirit and principles of the new constitution that promotes devolution. In schedule four of the new constitution, tourism is to be handled by the national government and not county governments. This makes it necessary to establish a system to link marketing with county government. The best formula in our humble opinion is going regional based on tourism circuits. Water boards in this county cut across counties on the basis of the common denominator being the shared river basin.
- Part V of the bill, Establishment of Financial Bodies; creates two boards, tourism fund and tourism finance corporation. The object and purpose of the tourism fund is to finance seven ministerial activities. None of these activities includes a provision for environment conservation that is at the heart of tourism sector. Neither is there any provision to finance the nascent community initiatives or regional tourism associations that contribute significantly to the growth of the industry. This is a broad statement to reinforce the status quo of tourism sector reaping without courtesy to plough back. The bill introduces the financing of the safety communication and crisis management centre operated by Kenya Tourism Federation. If this can be financed there is every justification to fund community based and grass roots initiatives. Previously the industry has given undue advantage to the bigger players; the bill should depart from this and be seen to level the playing ground. The structure of the two financial bodies and KTB are very similar. The work of these bodies would be linked to the grass roots and simplified and networked by regional boards that would serve as a link. Funding community initiatives, biodiversity conservation is recognition the role the community, small and micro entrepreneurs play in growing the industry and reducing degradation and conflict. It is a way of ensuring and guaranteeing the sustainability of the industry. Localizing management policies ensures efficiency and effectiveness by empowering the local community to actively participate in governance and management of the natural resources. It is also a way of appreciating and investing in the enormous potential and local indigenous knowledge and skills. It is the only practically proven mechanism of ensuring the industry sustainability as evident in various success stories all over the world. Another advantage of this approach is the equitable distribution of resources that will propel security and ensure standards without the use of military or police force. One manifestation of economic growth and human development is ability to self propel without use of external force “writing the law in the hearts”.
Tourism is a multidimensional fruit tree. It is the only export product consumed at source. Any approach to its growth and sustainability must acknowledge this and depart from the conventional business approach by adopting flexible, existential and practical legal and regulatory frameworks. Towards this end we at Mt. Kenya Tourism Circuit Association do hereby propose the following to the Parliamentary Committee on Finance, Trade and Planning on whose able hands the bill is currently, and all men and women of good will in this country.
1. The bill should be amended to incorporate the establishment and creation of regional boards based on iconic products or circuits just like the water boards. These should be recognized in the legal framework and mandated to carry out regulatory, marketing and community capacity enhancement.
2. The bill should be amended to clearly incorporate the establishment and creation of a mechanism to ensure sustainability of its natural resource base and enforcement. These powers could as well be invested in the regional boards.
3. The bill should be amended to clearly stipulate either under the regional boards or any other mechanism the establishment of a legal framework to fund and stimulate community and regional initiatives.
4. To ensure quality standards, the current draft should be amended to incorporate a mechanism and framework to ensure harmony of graduates from diverse institutions of learning. We propose a body like KASNEB to oversee examinations and guarantee quality for the sustainability of the industry.