Kenya tourism draft law under fire

KAMPALA, Uganda (eTN) – After completing their tourism policy two years ago, which seems to have taken much inspiration from the generally considered visionary Ugandan tourism policy document, the next stage of development, a new tourism draft law seems to have drawn sharp criticism from the private sector. A consultative committee was therefore put into place to iron out the differences between those who presented the latest draft version and the private sector.

Like in Uganda, where bureaucrats literally sat on the draft tourism bill that wasintroduced in2005 to force changes to their liking, in Kenya, too, civil servants appear to have tried to water down the bill.

Here in Uganda, attempts were made by backwards ministry bureaucrats to reduce functions vested in the Uganda Tourist Board prescribed in the policy documents, such as licensing, monitoring and enforcement. In Kenya, there was an attempt to push the private sector majority on the Kenya Tourist Board into a reverse in favor of the public sector representatives. Mandatory membership in an appropriate trade association as one of the licensing criteria was also an issue on both sides of the border and while Uganda resolved this already the Kenyan private sector is still arguing its obvious case.

Private sectors across Eastern Africa are now better organized and have learned from each other’s experiences, and an informed Kenyan private sector promptly spotted the anomalies in the latest draft of the law.

In Uganda, after much discontent and lobbying, the Tourism Bill (2008), which should have been bearing the 2006 date, was passed two months ago and given the assent of the President last week, making it the law of the land. The new law incidentally maintained all the key elements introduced by a private/public sector steering committee, which were aimed at reforming the sector and its finances in coming years with the introduction of the “Tourism Development Fund Levy.”