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Meru National Park tipped for more visitors

The Meru County government, Kenya Wildlife Service and players in the tourism sector have committed to make concerted efforts to increase traffic to the Meru National Park.

Despite the park having a wide range of wildlife, being home to the Adamson’s of the Born Free fame and proximity to Mt Kenya and Northern Kenya destinations, it remains unexplored.

Speakers at the Meru Investment forum of Friday called for an elaborate county government and private sector strategy to market the national park locally and internationally.

Ikweta safari camp proprietor John Nkinyangi noted that the National park receives not more than 1,000 locals annually while non-Kenyan tourists are in the hundreds every year.

“Tourism figures provided by the Kenya Wildlife Service in Meru National Park are wanting. The hospitality facilities always operate below capacity.

“We should be able to take advantage of the Park’s proximity to Mt Kenya National Park, Lewa Conservancy, Shaba game reserve and Buffalo Springs,” Prof Nkinyangi said.

He said few of the more than 250 tour operators in Kenya send tourists to Meru as they lack information on attractions in the county.

“We have invested in Meru because we have confidence in the tourism potential. There is need to debunk the reference of Meru as Kenya’s best kept secret.

To attract more investments and boost earnings for existing ones, there is need for Meru to partner with neighboring counties. Development of regional tourism plans will help draw traffic to the area,” he said.

Mr Harun Sang, a KWS official at the Meru National Park said they need support from the county government to market the destination.

CONSERVATION AGENDA

He however encouraged residents of Meru to take up game farming saying KWS is ready to give licence the ventures.

Meru executive for tourism Ntoitha M’Mithiaru said the county is in talks with the Born Free Foundation that promotes George and Joy Adamson’s conservation agenda for the establishment of a museum in the national park.

“Tourists ask to be taken to the Lioness Elsa grave but no one tells them that it is in Meru National Park. The George and Joy Adamson Museum will make Meru national park stand out as a tourist destination,” Mr Mithiaru said.

He said the county government is already finalizing the development of a Meru tourism guide and is in the process of profiling hospitality developments to ease investment.

Governor Peter Munya cited low per diem rates for government officials travelling to Meru county as a hindrance to conference tourism.

“National government officials traveling to Meru get Sh5, 000 as perdiem compared to counties like Laikipia where they get Sh10, 000. It is national government departments that decide where a national or international conference will be. With low perdiem, they may never choose Meru. The National treasury should urgently address this matter,” Mr Munya said.

To address shortage of conference and hotel facilities, Meru County Investment and Development Corporation managing director Joel Imitira said the county is refurbishing the County Hotel as well as constructing a conventional centre in Meru town.

Also present at the investment forum was Trapos Africa Chairman Eustace Mwarania who pledged to set up cable cars at ecotourism sites in Mt Kenya forest and other parts of the county.