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In an article titled ‘The role of tourism in the conservation of cultural heritage in Kenya’ in, of the Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, Irandu takes us through the journey of tourism in Kenya and its achievements based in conservation of culture and many social and economic aspects. Tourism in Kenya developed before 1930 which was facilitated by arrival of international tourists in small numbers in the country. During those years, it is only the wealthy Europeans and Americans who afforded leisure time and had Kenya as their tourist destination.
The rich wildlife in Kenya was a resource upon which tourism was founded. From then many national parks and game reserves were found and gazetted having Nairobi National Park as the first to be gazetted in 1946. Later on other parks were founded and set to receive tourists from all over the world. Tsavo was the next to be gazetted in 1948 while Aberdares was gazette in 1950, Meru Park in 1966. Lake Nakuru National park was gazetted in 1967 and later on other parks emerged with the government intervention after seeing how the tourism industry was creating revenue to the government. Presently there are more than twenty five terrestrial National parks, twenty two national reserves, four marine national parks, five Marine parks and one animal orphanage.
Apart from wildlife tourism in Kenya, Beach tourism also developed in the beginning of the twentieth century despite the Kenyan coast being in contact with other parts of the world for more than 2000 years. After the British colonials settled in Kenya, they started getting attracted to the Kenyan coast which made the domestic tourists to develop the beaches hence the beach tourism. The first hotel to be built in line with beach tourism was situated at Malindi. Later on constant development of the coast has attracted investors who boost the tourism industry by facilitating construction of hotels in the Kenyan coast. Presently, there are more than twenty one five and three star hotels and more than fifty five standard hotels in the coast. These hotels help in accommodating both international and local tourists who go visiting the Kenyan coast. There are various activities that take place in the Kenyan coast along the beaches that help the beach tourism activities to expand hence making beach tourism an event that is associated with Kenya. Apart from the coast in Kenya, the industry is favored by its weather that is predictable and welcoming.
Beach tourism to some Kenyans is a blessing in disguise because most of the hotels around the coast drain their sewage in the ocean hence killing the marine animals due to pollution. Apart from this pollution, many cultural practices of the environs are eroded by the fact that the local entrepreneurs try to ape the western culture that is practiced by the visiting tourists thus being a threat to the societal cultural practices. Kenyan ladies have developed a tendency of eloping with the male tourists. Of late, even men are eloping with women tourists and this is against the cultural practices in Kenya.
Although many people regard tourism and colonialism as the main things that affected the Kenyan cultural heritage, to some extent it is not so. Tourism has been playing great role in perseveration of Kenyan heritage because most of the dying cultural practices are being revived through tourism. Tourists travel from their countries to visit the cultural sites in Kenya. The fact that these cultural sites have been turned into museums makes preservation of culture a controlled resource. Many dances are presented to the tourist and constant practices of these dances makes them to forever remain a part of the Kenyans who practice them. There are various historical sites that have international relevance to the people of the world for instance fort Jesus. Many people travel from very far to see fort Jesus and Vasco da Gama pillar. These sites make the Kenyan traditional dancers to form groups in the areas with those sites and perform to them in return these dancers are paid an they feel motivated to dance for the tourists and in the process they feel proud of their culture. Apart from their culture being a practice, it is a resource which favors the people who practice it.
The unique culture in the different tribal groupings in Kenya is portrayed in different aspects of doing things. There is for instance the manner in which traditional food is cooked. There are different types of food, dances, songs, drama, attires among others which tourism has helped to conserve because the environs behaviors are reinforced through reward in form of money .
Tourism has been the top foreign exchange earner in Kenya mostly during the peak seasons. Kenyan government acknowledges that tourists are a resource hence the government through its officers have formulated strategies through the ministry of tourism and culture of entertaining the tourists. The Maasai attach a lot of value to their culture which is internationally recognized, the book entitled ‘The White Maasai’ by Corrine Hoffman made the Maasai culture to be internationally recognized. More than four million copies of the book were sold in a month’s time simply because of the manner tourism and adventures in social integration are represented in the book.
Apart from the positive impacts that tourism has in the Kenyan culture, there are various negative attributes associated with the tourism industry. The fact that Kenyans are enticed with money simply because of presenting their culture to the tourist, they result in to commodification of culture. Through commodification of culture, people take culture as a trading commodity where they trade for exchange of money. The actual attachment and value of culture is lost. In the process, many Kenyans starts envying the tourists’ way of doing things and feel that they would want to practice the western culture. This practice erodes the morals of the Kenyans because of culture shock simply because they acre not acclimatized in the new culture.
It is strength that the cultures in Kenya have a way of absorbing cultural changes displayed by the tourists without having their cultural practices eroded. The social cultural changes that are brought by tourism are unavoidable and cannot be separated from the economy development in the Kenyan region.
The Doxey’s irridex is a theoretical perspective which states that hosts in a tourist are will always modify them in a welcoming manner where they will welcome the tourists in a friendly manner. There are several stages which the attitudes take place whereby at first the tourists are welcomed warmly, later the attitude changes to apathy and finally they receive annoyance and aggression. In end the tourists become scapegoats of the social evils happening in the host’s region or country. The tourist in this stage get harassed and cheated because they are no longer perceived as individuals on a holiday.
According to the Asian Pacific context, relevance of impacts of culture on tourism that is experienced in Kenya to the Asian pacific countries is brought to examination. Kenyans have managed to revive their culture through tourism which should also apply to the Asian Pacific countries. The Pacific island of Tonga, Paupa New Guinea, Samoa, Fiji and Solomon have a rich cultural heritage that needs to be conserved for the purposes of tourism. Indonesia should follow suit because the cultural heritage is a resource to the region which can attract tourism industry.
Kenyan tours and travel operators market the region extensively by making it a tourist destination because there are returns to the constituent companies and the nation at large. Tourism should be used as a resource and policy makers in Kenya and Asia Pacific region need to work towards making tourism a resource without damaging cultural environment.