Harsh penalties for wildlife poaching coming – Ruto

Ruto said this strategy will develop the country's tourism industry to make it more competitive and help create more job opportunities for the youth/DPPS

Ruto said this strategy will develop the country’s tourism industry to make it more competitive and help create more job opportunities for the youth/DPPS

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 23 – Deputy President William Ruto has said that the government will fast-track the Wildlife Bill to make the killing of the Big Five to a capital offence.

Speaking at a meeting of stakeholders in the tourism industry in his office on Thursday, Ruto said he was concerned that wanton poaching in the country was decimating elephants, lions, buffalos, rhinos and leopards at an alarming rate.

“Operationalisation of the Wildlife Act to make killing of the Big Five a capital offence will be a deterrent as it will attract more severe penalties to the poachers. Once operational, the Act will attract life sentences for killing wildlife,” he said.

He said the government was committed to turning around the tourism industry adding it will increase the budget for marketing Kenya as a tourist destination to three times its present allocation.

“We need to increase the marketing budget to the Kenya Tourism Board from Sh740 million to about Sh3 billion so as to increase tourist arrivals from the current 1.6 million to three million tourists per year in the short term,” he added.

Ruto said this strategy will develop the country’s tourism industry to make it more competitive and help create more job opportunities for the youth.

This comes as Kenya was ranked second after South Africa in the Conference Tourism in Africa and 58th globally in the Country City rankings 2012 report by the International Congress and Convention Association.

Nairobi was ranked 2nd best after Cape Town and scored position 100 best city destination for international conferences up from 104th position it held in 2011.

The Permanent Secretary for Tourism Ruth Solitei said that the performance is a key indicator that conference tourism is on the rise and there is need for more conference facilities that promote the sector.

“This performance justifies the need for more conferences facilities of international standards in every county, more accommodation and bed capacity, ideal transport and communication infrastructure to raise attractiveness and capacity of the destination,” Solitei added.

She also revealed that they are already increasing international conferences and the government has set aside land in Bamburi, Mombasa to construct a state of the art Green Convention Centre and is now sourcing for investors to form partnerships for the project.

Solitei said that the ministry is already engaging with county governors to establish conference tourism secretaries in each of the counties.

The country hosted 29 International Association Conferences in 2012 up from 20 held in 2011.