NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 21 – Thirteen lodges, hotels and tented camps operating in the Maasai Mara National Reserve face imminent closure for operating without proper licenses.
A report released by the Ministry of Tourism shows that out of the 115 hotels, camps and lodges in the world famous game reserve only 92 had obtained licenses from the ministry to operate.
Speaking while releasing the report, Tourism Minister Najib Balala said most of the establishments do not pay taxes, depriving the government of millions of shillings in revenue.
The minister said the situation is made worse by growing concerns of congestion at the game reserve.
“The Maasai Mara has always been a problem first because of overdevelopment, then rivalry and competition amongst developers which destroys our image internationally,” Mr Balala said but could not immediately quantify how much had been lost because of the illegal operations.
The government has already suspended development of tourist facilities in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, to develop a long-term management plan for the ecosystem.
Those flouting the licensing have already been bonded and taken to court pending judgment.
The Tourism Minister said the major challenge has been the uncoordinated approach between the Kenya Revenue Authority, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the Ministry of Tourism.
“The ministry is at the tail end of licensing. First, it is the local the local authority then NEMA then when the whole project is ready it is the ministry,” he said.
A bill being mulled by the ministry is looking to change the structure where developers will be required to acquire a provisional license then get a full license once all other requirements are met in an effort to seal the current loopholes.
The survey was carried out by the Hotel and Restaurant Authority (HRA) following an inter-ministerial audit done in 2008 showed out of the 108 units only 29 percent were legally operated.
Mr Balala said further audits would be conducted across the country to ascertain how many hotels were operating legally.