Whilst it may still be too early to tell, Africa’s response to COVID-19 was quicker and more comprehensive than any other region globally, and Kenya, in particular, has received praise for its timely response to the pandemic.
As COVID-19 spreads, Kenya, like the majority of African countries, now has no option but to prioritise economic needs to revive its economy that heavily depends on the informal sector, agriculture and tourism.
It is against this backdrop that, earlier last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta emphasised that Kenya must strive to meet certain health and safety irreducible minimums to enable him have the confidence to give the go-ahead to fully re-open the country.
Based on the above, the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, through the Cabinet Secretary (CS) Najib Balala, launched a virtual safari live stream – the Magical Kenya campaign – to showcase game safaris in some of the parks and reserves across the country since 2 June 2020.
The CS has also taken the following steps, which are all effective from 1 July 2020:
- The launch of The Magical Kenya Tourism and Travel, Health and Safety Protocols for the "New Normal" (the Protocols): Kenya, in line with global re-opening of tourism and travel protocols, made its submission drafted by National Tourism and Hospitality Protocols Taskforce to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for validation.
The Protocols (which we shall discuss in detail in the second part of this series) aim to achieve (environmentally and socially responsible) institutional, operational and staff preparedness to ensure service provision meets required health and safety guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
- The "World Travel and Tourism Council Safe Travel Stamp" award from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), after adopting the global health and hygiene protocols dubbed "Safe Travels": Kenya has also obtained the WTTC Safe Travel Stamp. The recognition from the WTTC is timely as the country prepares to re-open the tourism and hospitality industry after months of closure.
The stamp will also allow travellers to recognise Kenya as a safe destination once it re-opens and help revive the industry, which has lost approximately KES 80 billion to date and has been one of the worst hit globally following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A one-year moratorium to lodge owners in all Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) parks and reserves: The KWS has given a one-year moratorium to lodge owners in its parks and reserves, for rent payment starting 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021. The CS has encouraged owners of the lodges to use savings from the moratorium to improve on visitors’ experience and grow their businesses, as well as promote KWS parks as preferred destinations for safari tourism.
- A 50% discount on filming fees for both local and international producers filming in KWS parks and reserves: The CS intends that the discounted fee will incentivise filmmakers to utilise the availed window to grow their businesses, as well as market Kenya.
- Reduced entry fees to all KWS game parks and reserves. This will apply for all categories of tourists (local, residents and international) effective 1 July 2020 for one year: In the new changes, residents and citizens will now enjoy the same rates. The new rates are available here.
Through the above, the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife is charting one of the most progressive steps in the region to support the revival of the industry to ensure the world and travellers remain connected to Kenya, even during the current COVID-19 lockdown period when there is restricted movement globally.
The above initiatives are particularly relevant as Kenya counts down to 15 July 2020 and 1 August 2020 when it opens its borders to tourists locally and globally, respectively, pursuant to the President’s directive in his press statement of 6 July 2020.
Whilst we know that you may have concerns on how best to navigate this period, especially with the new protocols in place, we assure you that our team is fully available and happy to assist you, should you require our support.