Tourists have always stood out in the Third World as eccentric, rich visitors. But until now they were neither resented or impugned. That may be changing.
Is it right that you as a tourist pay $1500 per day to stay at &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge when that is more than the average wage earned by a Tanzania in a year?
Sunday, a respected journalist in Kenya admitted that the publicity over Kate and William’s engagement tugs his “instinct to look at the dark side of acres and acres of land still reserved in the Kenyan countryside for the occasional pleasures of visiting monarchs and aristocrats, and the local privileged class.”
And while it’s a bit hard to tell from an email address if someone is white or black, I venture that the critical comments left after Otieno’s column were from white Kenyans and that the blacks were supportive or equivocal. More or less.
Until this year, tourism revenues in Kenya were constantly vying for the top foreign currency earnings with tea and coffee. But Kenya is growing rapidly, and manufacturing, mining and service industries look like they will all surpass tourism within just a few years.
Tourism is no longer the sacred cow it was for at least several generations.
Otieno used the publicity about Kate and William’s engagement as the vehicle to discuss the question: are the privileges given the tourist industry fair?
The royal proposal was made while the two were on holiday in Kenya.
I for one was glad to see Otieno’s column. He began politely enough but ultimately used his talent as a writer to make a very strong case. Otieno penned that “the future tribal king of the British” had stirred up a hornet’s nest in Kenya about privilege, land ownership and income inequality.
“I thought we particularly looked good out there on CNN where the local correspondent ably re-enacted a Jesus-born-in-a-manger scene complete with a muddy footpath and a humble cottage where the royal romance miraculously blossomed,” Otieno joked.
But the joke is right on. Christian charity? Christian fairness?
Do the west’s Christian values apply to the extraordinary tax breaks given &Beyond? To the ownership/management of fertile lands normally unavailable to foreigners? To the visa waivers for foreign managers to live and work in Tanzania?
The answers always used to be, Yes of course. Because the benefits to East Africa, mostly in terms of employment, were large enough. But the discrepancy has gotten bigger, not smaller, over the years.
Since &Beyond opened Crater Lodge in the late 1990s, the wealth of individual Kenyans has roughly doubled, impressive yes. But the price of Crater Lodge has increased 400%!
Now in fairness to &Beyond, not all that increase has been pocketed by its stakeholders. But in fairness to East Africans, neither is that increase justified by increased prices or taxes. The truth is somewhere in between, but it seems to me definitely skewed to Crater Lodge’s advantage.
And I think that’s what Otieno is basically referring to.
Honing in like a lasek laser Otieno writes the wealth of a foreign tourist “…symbolizes the kind of inequality and ostentation despised by a large section of the Kenyan society.”
This is only the beginning of the debate, but it’s important to expand, and the bitter voices of foreign managers that dominate the comments following Otieno’s blog are disturbing. That kind of vitriol is not going to help our “tourist cause” one iota.
It’s a real issue. Let’s deal with it.
Whats the big deal or confusion. Its called willing buyer, willing seller. If there are people out there who think its worth it to spend $3,000 a night , usually $ 6,000 as they spend a minimum of 2 nights there, how does that diminish the role of Tourism. A huge chunk of that goes to either the government as VAT, ( logically proportionally as much as the rate increases, and that money is ultimately used to service Tanzania’s social requirements, amongst them one would hope educations and health etc) , and some of it is shared as co-operarative profit sharing with the land owners, the Ngoro Ngoro crater conservancy. The fact is that wealthy people like to spend their money, no surprises, so do you want to telll them to only spend it in rich countries?? Sounds like cutting off the nose to spite the face to me. And the truth is that nobody is stopping any one esle form grabbing at these mega dollars, just come up with a great idea in a great location and they will come, as the founder of LAS VEGAS said. Is there some jelousy in this somewhere…? Truth be told that in Kenyas arid north east, the Lewa conservancy , which is a loosely knit collection of land owners, amongst them white families and ethnic tribal cooperatives, they have converted almost dead cattle ranch land void of life intio sustainable wildlife conservancys outside the corrupt hands of the political eilte and sometimes not so efficient wildlife authorities, and this more than anything seems to have rattled the nairobi elite. Its a case of, if i cant have it, why can you have it, even if it was almost valueless before due to mismanagement of the resource.
Ngorongoro Crater is not actually in Kenya – it is in Tanzania. For someone with such strong opinions, your research skills could do with a little fine tuning.
Wow…..who was this addressed to? Hope it was the author, because if you read my comments i talk of Tanznia with respect to Ngoro Ngoro and lewa was brought up as thats where the large private ranches are in kenya. The author brings up Kenya and Ngoro Ngoro….. so addressed them both. Pole sana!!!