Thursday, August 30, 2007

Plans for three resort cities

The Standard, Kenya

By Al Abdi

The Government is planning to develop three resort cities in the next five years in a project aimed at making Kenya among the top tourist destinations in the world.

The establishment of the three resort cities-two at the Coast and the other in Isiolo is classified as tourism�s flagship project to be completed by 2012.

At the coast, one will be located at the North Coast while the second one will be at the South Coast. The third in Isiolo District will be located just on the outskirts of Isiolo town.

The move is part of the Government�s all-encompassing national development plan, Vision 2030, which is envisaged to put Kenya at par with the Asian Tiger countries like Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.

Vision 2030 is national long-term growth plan that aims at transforming Kenya into a globally competitive and prosperous nation, offering a high quality of life for all its citizens, by 2030.

Last week, a high-powered delegation led by Permanent secretaries Mr Mohamed Mahamud (Roads), Mr Zachary Mwaura (Defence) and Dr Hukka Wario (PS, East African Community) said in Isiolo the Government will make tourism as its cornerstone for development.

"Tourism will be the leading sector in achieving the goals of the vision where it is aimed that the country will be among the 10 long haul tourist destination in the world, offering a high-end, diverse and distinctive visitor experience that few of her competitors can offer,�� reads part of the policy document.

Scenery that rivals Hollywood

The Government has already opened discussions on the project with the Isiolo County Council. About 1, 000 hectares needs to be allocated for the resort project.

The Permanent Secretaries, who were accompanied by experts from the various ministries who helped develop the policy document, said Kenya aims to beat South Africa, Egypt and Morocco in tourist arrivals in the next five years.

In the Vision, the Government plans to focus on three specific areas to achieve the goals for 2012;

� to quadruple tourism�s GDP contribution to over Ksh80 billion;

� to raise international visitors from 1.8 million in 2006 to three million in 2012 while raising average spend per visitor from the current Sh40,000 to at least Sh70,000 and;

� to increase hotel beds from 40,000 to about 65,000, combined with an emphasis on high quality service.

Developed on the model of South Africa�s Sun City, each of the resort cities in Kenya will be allocated enough hectares of land to enable the facilities have casinos, golf courses, restaurants and discotheques among other features.

The delegation said Isiolo, as part of Kenya�s safari destination, was picked because of the fame acquired by Shaba Game Reserve that had attracted filmmakers from across the globe. ��It is Joy and George Adamson who made Shaba famous. As a result, many major films have been shot here. We have a scenery that rivals Hollywood right here,�� said PS Wario.

The Adamsons reared lions starting with lioness Elsa and later released them into the wild. While Joy died at Shaba, her husband was killed at neighbouring Kora National Reserve.

Movies shot at Shaba over the last two decades include Born Free, Out Of Africa, To Walk with Lions and CBS TV blockbuster series, Survivor Africa.

The Government now plans to develop the infrastructure in the northern circuit starting with the upgrading of the Isiolo-Moyale highway to bitumen standards.

Mohamud said the construction of the first 136km between Isiolo town and Merille River will start in October. The tendering process having been finalised.

"The first phase will start in about two months. We have Sh4 billion for the project and we are at the moment waiting for no-objection on tender valuation from the bank (Africa Development Bank),�� said the PS in charge of Roads.

The Permanent Secretaries reiterated the Government�s commitment to set up another international airport that also targets the tourism sector apart from transportation of miraa and horticultural products from the Mt Kenya region.

Isiolo District, measuring about 26,000 square kilometres, is sparsely populated with about 150,000 people. About 60 per cent of the population resides in Central division, an area measuring about 1, 500 sq km.

The value of land in the district has been low, but it had picked up in the last three years in Isiolo Town, where a plot measuring 50 by 100 feet goes for an average of Sh1 million.

Given its central geographical position in the country and the Government�s plan to set up a city resort on the outskirt of the town, value of land is expected to rise steadily.

Many parks dormant

Already, scramble for land especially in Central division has started in earnest with local leaders led by Isiolo North MP, Dr Mohamed Abdi Kuti, who is also the minister for Youth Affairs, appealing to the locals not to sell their land to �outsiders�.

The second flagship project will be to increase the country�s premium safari parks and the extension of facilities in other either under-utilised or dormant parks with a view to achieving higher tourist revenue yields.

The current premium parks to date include the world famous Maasai Mara National Reserve and the Kenya Wildlife managed Lake Nakuru National Park that are both becoming congested.

Under-utilised parks like Mt Marsabit and Ruma parks will benefit from improved infrastructure and better marketing here and abroad, aimed at bringing in more visitors.

"So many parks are either dormant or under-utilised. We want to revive the dormant ones and do an aggressive marketing both locally and abroad in order to attract tourists,�� said the PS.

Most idle parks are in the northern circuit that include Rahole, Kitui, Bisanadi, Sibiloi, and Kora but with abundant and rare wildlife and other attractions.

In the development of tourism plans is the business visitors� initiative that envisages to attract investors to set up of five more international class hotels in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. Isiolo will be leveraged as a new high-end tourist destination in that period.

Under the niche products initiative, the Vision 2030 States that if undertaken, it will provide about 3,000 high cost bed accommodation for tourists interested in cultural and eco-tourism cum water-based sports especially around Lake Victoria.

The other item on the menu is the certification of 1,000 home-stay sites to promote cultural tourism in Kenyan homes where locals will exhibit their traditions.

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