Kenya’s national parks and game reserves form the pillar of the country’s tourism industry, and wildlife viewing and safari tourism are significant generators of income and foreign exchange. The promulgation of pioneer national parks in Kenya in the mid-20th century followed colonial practices of ‘exclusion’ and ‘divide and rule’ which marginalized local communities in decision-making processes and initiation of tourism programs and wildlife conservation initiatives. Government supported policies and programs that focused on wildlife protection and promotion of safari tourism also accentuated human-wildlife conflicts and contributed to species loss and habitat fragmentation. This study examines the evolution of Kenya’s wildlife conservation policies and safari tourism programs, and argues that safari tourism in Kenya has privileged Western models of tourism development and wildlife conservation, with historic exclusion of indigenous communities still ongoing today though some improvements are evident. Postcolonial legacies influence the political economy of tourism in regard to the Maasai in Kenya; inequitable power relations are illustrated with the help of a literature review as well as a case example. The study offers suggestions to guide the development of future tourism certification programs and indicators related to protected areas and safari tourism. Such programs should be cognizant of Kenya’s postcolonial context and attend to social and cultural sustainability, including issues of inclusion, exclusion and empowering local communities to participate directly in the management and ownership of environmental and tourism resources.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/shem_maingi/2/