How high price of tourism keeps many visitors away from Kenya

African safaris were born and developed in the beautiful natural reserves of Kenya. They were traditionally enjoyed by wealthy, older foreigners eager to see Africa’s unique wildlife.

Since then, in countries outside of Africa, a travelling culture known as ‘backpacking’ became common good for tourists with limited budget.

Countries such as Thailand and others in southeast Asia have embraced these low-budget travellers and boomed economically from developing and maintaining affordable, welcoming options for tourists to sleep, travel and visit tourist attractions.

Sadly, this is not the case for Kenya. Due to high tourism taxes, accommodation, vehicle rental and entry fees for national parks have become too expensive for the large group of young travellers that call themselves backpackers. 

On top of this, many Kenyans maintain a stance to white tourists that can be summarised as ‘extortion’.

All non-African tourists are expected to boast the big budgets that wealthy old white tourists have. A one-day trip into Maasai Mara costs upwards of $300 — an outrageous tariff compared to anywhere else in the world — whereas Kenyans pay reasonable prices.

Discrimination between nationals and foreigners aside, this leads to frustration and a negative feeling to the mentality of Kenyans. They seem to extort foreign tourists for as much money as possible, not understanding that many young and budget-limited tourists want to enjoy the country but simply can’t afford to.

Not every foreign tourist is wealthy. Many tourists, for this reason, stay away from Kenya.

Tourism is one of the most important economy boosters for any country and Kenya has all the potential for it. Sadly, the tariffs definitely don’t compare to other countries with similar economic conditions in Asia, Middle- and South America and Europe. As long as the high prices prevail, African countries shouldn’t expect to see the much-needed increase in tourism. 

In the past two months or so, I’ve been travelling through Kenya. On behalf of many low-budget backpackers, I urge Kenya to lower its tourism tariffs and transform itself into a thriving touristic country, welcoming both the traditionally well-off (old and white) safari tourists and the much larger group of low-budget travellers from all over the world.

Chris ten Dam, The Netherlands​

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