Stretching from the slopes of Mount Kenya to the end of the Great Rift Valley, Laikipia stands out as one of Kenya’s valuable eco-tourism sites. Its tourism potential received a major boost recently after a group of Belgian investors expressed interests in setting up a multi-million shilling hotel in the region. The three investors say they have set aside Sh100 million to put up a prestigious hotel facility at Kirimon game reserve in Laikipia North Sub-county.
The investors led by Mr Rudi De Kerpel, they say that the area, which borders Isiolo and Samburu counties is very prime and will provide a serene environment for ecotourism. “This area is virgin and we are sure that the hotel industry in this area will thrive. We will do environment conservation just like the locals here have done. We are optimistic that very soon tourists from the globe will visit and enjoy the local diverse cultures,” says Mr Kerpel.
The investors own a series of posh hotels in Belgium and they exude confidence that their proposed investment will greatly excel in the county. Mr Kerpel, jointly with Christian Verbeeck and his son Beboit have contributed Sh100 million towards the investment. Laikipia county government has open-heartedly welcomed the move and has leased a parcel of land in the 55,000 acre land.
This comes at a time when the county government is intending to hold an investors’ conference in Nanyuki town next month. Laikipia Executive member for tourism Mrs Jane Putunoi says the county assembly will soon debate on a bill to guide tourism and other related infrastructure. Raphael Leseketeti, a local resident says they will benefit from employment and other corporate social responsibility if the project goes through.
Tourism is the fastest growing industry and a major foreign exchange earner in Kenya, contributing 10 per cent of the National GDP. It is also a major employer of specialised, skilled and unskilled labour, which has a target of Sh200 billion earnings by 2030. Laikipia is one of the world’s most exciting wilderness safari and wildlife tourism destinations, which have a combination of abundant wildlife, spectacular scenery and extraordinary cultural diversity.
The county, however, has over the years had poor road infrastructure to the tourism sites, high cost of energy and inadequate exposure to tourism investment and funding sources. Area County Governor Joshua Irungu confirms that despite being a major economic activity, tourism remains largely unexploited in the county. He says: “As much as we want to exploit tourism in this county, it is unacceptable to have frequent loss of lives and rampant destruction of crops by wild animals”.
He has also promised to educate the local communities on the benefits of taking care of wildlife and create an appropriate system that allows financial benefits derived from tourism to trickle down to the community. Irungu says he will create a wildlife corridor to ensure their free movement and establish a community wildlife scouting base for regular patrols and fence maintenance. “I am going to ensure that a bill is tabled in the county assembly to establish Laikipia Wildlife and Environment Authority, he says.
The governor has promised to encourage community and cultural tourism, especially in Laikipia North where traditional activities have been well preserved. Laikipia has a sanctuary of over 80 mammal species including black rhino, lion, leopard, elephant, reticulated giraffe, zebra, wild dog, aardwolf and a wealth of African game. The county government is currently partnering with Mount Kenya Tourism Circuit Association geared towards changing attitudes and perceptions of the community towards the tourism sector by marketing it so as to increase tourist arrivals and bed occupancy in the region.