Mass tourism is when large numbers of tourists visit the same destination. Most mass-tourism package holidays are to short-haul destinations e.g. Spain. But long-haul packages to tropical destinations such as Kenya have become more popular in recent years. This mass tourism has often resulted in economic gains but environmental losses.
Kenya is located in East Africa, its capital city is Nairobi and it is home to approximately 36 million people. Kenya earns about US$850 million from tourism each year.
Why is Kenya so popular?
- it has an attractive climate (tropical) with sunshine all year round, hot and humid at the coast; temperate inland and dry in the NE (rainy season – April-June and Oct-Dec, heavy rainfall in the afternoon and early evening)
- Safari holidays are popular – e.g. in the Maasai Mara / Nakuru National Park – Kenya has spectacular wildlife – including the big 5 – Lion, Elephant, Rhinoceros, Leopard and Buffalo
- Cultural experience – many tourists visit local tribes such as the Maasai to find out more about their lifestyle and traditions
- Coastal Holidays – SE of Kenya has fine sands and coral reefs with spectacular marine life – e.g. Mombassa
- Conservation – tourism has supplied the economic incentive to set up national parks and conservation areas which protect wildlife.
- Employment – tourism has generated jobs, improving the living standards for local communities. Direct employment = 250,000 and indirect employment is responsible for another 250,000.
- Tourism also boosts demand for goods and services in agriculture, drinks, transport, entertainment, textiles and crafts.
- Infrastructure – roads, airports and other facilities have been built.
- Investment profits from tourism have been invested in education and other programmes for local communities.
- Tourism is Kenya’s biggest foreign exchange earner (US$1 billion)
- Tourist revenues account for approximately 15% of total GDP
- Each full time worker supports on average 7-12 other people
- Visitor numbers go up and down. Violence in parts of Kenya and other parts of Africa affect tourist numbers even though they are miles are away and tourist destinations are unaffected.
- Environmental damage – roads and tracks for safari jeeps can erode grass cover, damaging plants and animals and disturbing local habitats. The removal of trees and other vegetation for the construction of roads can lead to soil erosion. On the reefs off Mombasa, boats drop their anchors into the coral and some tourists take it away as a souvenir.
- Inequality – often the profits of tourism are reaped by wealthy landowners or the hotel and travel companies in MEDCs.
- Loss of traditional cultures – the Masai’s way of life and traditional farming methods have been disrupted by the setting up of the Serengeti National Park.
- Water cycle damage – diverting water for tourists can exploit local water reserves, leaving local people, plants and animals short of water. Tourist hotels sometimes dump waste into rivers
Strategies for the future?
The Kenya National Tourism Master Plan emphasises the need to:
- diversify the country’s tourist product range, by opening up new avenus of tourism. such as adventure activities on rivers and lakes (rafting, canoeing, sailing and cruising)
- achieve a better distribution of tourist activities throughout the country to reduce environmental pressure on tourist hot spots.
At a local level there are environmental converns that need to be addressed. Under a new programme announced in 2007, the Kenya Tourist Board aims to curb tourist numners in over-visisted parks like the Masai Mara while at hte same time increasing income by more than doubling park entry fees, setting a higher minimum price level in hotels and camps, and adding a premium to be used for game park improvements.
In the future the emphasis is going to be on quality not quantity; when the place is crowded, the magic of the safari is lost. There are also big hopes for ecotourism as a way of spreading tourist dollars among more people and increasing the involvement of tribespeople in preserving wildlife and the environment.