You are either a PSV ( Matatu) or TSV ( Tourist Service Vehicle ). Sorry you can’t shift lanes.

PSV Vehicles / Matatus as Tour Vans .

Ministry Of Tourism & Wildlife have now banned PSVs in our national parks as along as they are not TSV qualified. TSV is Tourist Service Vehicle be it domestic or International. There are strict rules to gollow to qualify and it is managed by Tourism Regulatory Authority a GOK entity.

I have seen several write up where some of us including some of my friends have even gone ahead to claim it is racism. You know very well that when you claim there is racism in a case in Kenya the debate is lost before you even begin.

Fact: law was enacted where any firm intending to receive paying guests must apply for TSV license for both driver and the vehicle just the way you need PSV to operate as a Matatu.

First things first . The directive DOES NOT outlaw school buses if anything we encourage children to visit our park they are the future custodians of these God given resource. School buses are NOT PSVs and the directive is NOT targeting them .

Resident and anyone in a private car can also acess the park as self drive as long as they observe park rules but once they start taking paying clients then they must also conform, apply and meet the strict TSV license conditions . There is no compromise on that . Directive does NOT also outlaw private cars as long as it is a family and NOT paying passengers. You can only lie for a while if you are frequent with numerous passengers you want to qualify as ” family ” Same thing applies to PSV sector . If you attempted to use your personal car without a PSV license you’ll not know what hit you. Please ask probox owners .

Fact is that Matatus and PSVs have made nonsense of park rules and undermining all the good efforts by industry players to position Kenya as good safari destination .

Once a vehicle is a PSV and they are taking paying clients then they MUST apply for TSV and conform. One of the condition is a qualified guide not any dude who can drive. In the absence of that Matatus should stick to their lane. We DON’T invade their lane either but many times they invade ours making our industry look really bad. There is NO industry that does NOT have barriers to entry. Leading guides like Paul Kirui, Raphael Koikai, John Kangethe, Jay Kang’e will tell you how much they invest to be professional guides.

Lets be real , PSVs operate worse than cartels . Wake up and try to put your matatu on say Nbi Meru or Nbi Narok route without paying the cartels for the route and kickbacks . They even allocate you a driver and a manamba . They even decide how much to pay you. Then they want to do tourism business without any rules ? Never that must be stopped.

We want them to apply , qualify and buy TSV license which KATO does NOT control. They also don’t have to be in KATO to get TSV license and a qualified driver guide.

It is sad that some see racism in this move. Well we will not fall for that cheap stunt that sounds like a broken record. The Matatu and even that Uber at Nbi National Park were ferrying Mzungus who feel they got a good deal and in reality they’ve been ripped off with a very poor delivery and in the process making Kenya a cheap destination. If that visitor fell out of that Uber window he would be referred to as tourist and how lax we are with our park safety rules We are competing against TZ. Namibia . SA or Botswana and strict rules apply. While God has been kind enough wiyh great resource we will not a few rogue players to mess the tour industry.

How much game can you see in a Uber Chap Chap ? You saw the driver and his client half body out of the car. Is that what we are advocating for?

We see hundreds of private cars in our parks and we have no issue with that but we cannot have PSVs . Let them stick to their lane . They also have strict and punitive barriers to entry if you were to venture into that business.

Some claim tourism industry is an elitist industry. That claim holds no water. 100 % of our TSV vehicles are driven by Kenyans who are forced to qualify as guides and we can not advocate for a Matatu just to drive in and out as they please. Kenyans own the businesses and we employ thousands of Kenyans NOT guys from Siberia . We ain’t aliens .

Most of the time we keep giving the example of Rwanda , Dubai or Singapore where things work. Yes they work because they observe strict rules in anything they do. If we want law and order we must also start behaving in an orderly manner.

We fully support the move by our ministry to bring back sanity to our delicate industry. Let PSVs stick to their lane, TSVs do.

Mohammed Hersi
Chairman
Kenya Tourism Federation

Mara River Drying should be a wake up call. Reboot our brains

Once mighty Mara River now facing serious crisis

It is now official Mara River has virtually dried up a scenario never witnessed in the last 100 years.

Myriad of factors contribute to this state and key amongst them is the destruction of Mau forest which is the source of most of the rivers flowing across the greater Mara and finally Serengeti. That is not the aim of my piece this Sunday morning . Finger pointing won’t help us. We are also quick to blame global warming but truth is that 80% this is a self inflicted disaster.

On other hand wrong tree types replaced the indigenous trees at the water towers and the main culprit is the notorious Euclaptus trees that sucks water from the ground like no other trees does . This factor is also fueled by tea farms that are looking for easy quick cheap source of fuel to dry the tea leaves. Well the dry weather has now come to bite the same tea farms where 40,000 tea farms workers have been sent home.

Closer to my heart is tourism where we have marketed indeed over done it by selling Mara as a migration spectacle and indeed it is or was. Sadly we reduced Mara to a 3 months destination yet some of the best times to visit Mara is outside the migration period with less crowd and more cats and grazers. Simply put Mara is an all year round destination.

The news that Mara river is facing serious crisis is no longer news and I do not want to join the doom and gloom bandwagon. Yes it has dried , what next ?

Mara River virtually gone as we wait for rain water to replenish it.

Truth be said , most of our resources is God given and as Kenya we have put in almost no investment to sustain them. It is now time we did it and more so Narok county who draw resources from this great place. Kajiado, Nakuru , Taita Taveta are all yearning for an opportunity to manage Amboseli, Lake Nakuru and Tsavo respectively.

Is it about time that we considered several small dams in the Mara and regulate the rain water from upstream , I think my answer is yes . We have become so much used to free flowing water that we have taken it for granted that it will never dry.

What will small dams across Mara do ? Micro climate will be created while consistent flow of the river will be guaranteed throughout the year and even Serengeti downstream will be happy to see that the flow of the river is year all round .I may not be a scientist but i believe daming a river that is turning to be seasonal is the only solution in the short term. Once the animals have enough grass and then water to quench their thirst they will thrive . Water bodies world over is a birds paradise and today we are looking at loss of our birds due loss of our habitat. Evidence of habitat loss is when bird species start to vanish.

Long term we must go back to the root cause of the problem up at the water towers . Reforestation and at the same a goverment order that will ban notorious Eucalyptus ( Muyua Mai, there is a reason why Late Wangari Mathai hated this tree that was imported from Australia ) . The same tree is also wrecking havoc in Central Kenya where rivers once flowed freely they are now all turning to be dry rocky river beds. At this rate even River Tana is no longer safe which is source of our hydro power.

Then finally to my fellow tourism players , it is about time we reboot our mindset how we sell and package Mara. It is about time we sold Mara holistically year all round and not reduce Mara to a migration phenomenon. We all know that the Mara river is facing serious challenges and that may just may be force us to put on our thinking hats and sell Mara as Mara and not as a three months migration phenomenon.

Botswana , Namibia and even South Africa do not have rivers flowing year all round but they attract tourists year all long. Botswana is one dry Okavango delta most of the year but they attract high end tourists so is Namibia a dessert . Why do I get the feeling that nature is now forcing us to reboot our brains. To Narok county , it is about time you invested back into this cash cow called Masai Mara and bit by bit you can set up the dams and trust me micro climate will be created and in the process Mara will rejuvenate as nice premium park.

Those saying Mara is now dead without the Mara River are pessimists. Mara is not dead , it will only be dead if we refuse to think beyond the free God given resources. Mara is 1/16 the size of the massive Serengeti . In Mara you can see the big four in under one hour and sometimes even the big five.

Folks the Cheese has moved , it’s time we woke up to smell the coffee. Is saving Mara possible , of course it is .

As always I choose to remain an optimist.

Mohammed Hersi
Chairman
Kenya Tourism Federation

*Is it about time we completely privatised KQ.*

Considering the unnecessary heat the KQ / KAA proposed deal has caused is it about time we completely sold KQ. Then only serious and ethical companies will be fit enough to do business with a new KQ. Those who love cutting deals will be locked out while no more tax payers bailouts will be needed. To nationalise KQ should NOT even be considered. We have been there before. We just do not have the discipline in respecting what is a GOK business. Ethiopians and the Emiratis are wired differently.

Safaricom was born out of that useless cash cow called KPTC which was milked dry by half literate political appointees of the 70s and 80s . Rest as they say is history. USA does NOT have a national carrier so can we.

Instead of trying to craft a KQ / KAA deal what about crafting a deal to off load GOK shareholding but with a rider that the name is retained . With MJ as Chair at KQ he handled the incubation of Safaricom before it was airborne . We can also get investors who will turn KQ into a Safaricom like outfit and privatisation will keep the lazy thieving hands at bay.

I am pretty sure many serious investors will pick KQ without thnking twice . KQ is a good viable business and there is no doubt it can regain its groove. Kenya is strategically located for any serious airline that wants to penetrate Africa. Kenya is only hours flight to any corner of Africa and that is a God given plus.

I really don’t mind KQ operated by Emirates, Delta or even Singapore Air, afterall Vodacom call the shots at Safaricom.

We can then focus to make our airports efficient and KAA will have to up its game as well . For now they may claim they are financially better off than KQ but it does not mean that KAA operations is anything to write home about. It’s about a dwarf insisting to be declared the tallest in the pack.

As long as we have KQ and the red tail, who owns it is really not an issue and we can say goodbye to constant bailouts.

Maybe jusy maybe the current team at KQ could be tasked to help in privatising KQ . With a single move the ongoing debate and labour issues will stop.

It is said it is only a fool who doesn’t change his mind others call it a paradigm shift and as always I choose to remain an optimist .

Mohammed Hersi

Eucalyptus Tree introduced in 1902 is causing havoc to our water table ( Africa In General)

I have been meaning to post my views regarding the Blue Gum tree or Eucalyptus. Last week I travelled through Central province tower on my way to Isiolo . Mount Kenya is a major water tower . Well it is now facing imminent danger.

Right from Thika I noticed miles and miles of Eucalyptus trees on virtually every available space. What many Kenyans don’t realise is that the Eucalyptus tree also known as Blue Gum is not an indigenous tree. It was introduced to Kenya around 1902 from Australia. It is a source of timber and fuel . It also fast growing. Many Kenyans have also been made to believe that they can sell the poles to Kenya Power who have now opted to use concrete poles which means many farmers will be left with poles that will end up as firewood or timber or left to continue to grow.

Now the sad part . Late Michuki warned us to uproot this trees from river banks while Nobel Laurette Wangari Mathai did not have kind words for it . She detested exotic trees for good reasons moreso the Blue Gum .

Entire 250KM + is nothing but Eucalyptus trees. Each tree gulps anything between 60 to 200 Litres a day

During my trip I only saw two rivers flowing while a decade ago there more than 10 rivers. When I see news that Mwea Scheme is now drying up I am not surprised . Uncles Michuki and Nobel Laureate Wangari Mathai who are both deceased warned us ( May their souls Rest In Peace ) but we never listened.

Eucalyptus tree gulp between 60 and 200 litres a day per tree depending on age of the tree . Even wetland grabbers use them to drain the grabbed land . Note how Nairobi is also full of these trees.

This tree is also not kind to other plants . It releases a chemical that kills most other plants . Even birds dont find it attractive to build nests and the soil is left dry without any moisture. Even butterflies disappear. This aint rocket science , please visit any place with Eucalyptus trees. The soil is dry and cracking. No sign of moisture.

We plant the wrong tree and on the other hand we keep drilling more boreholes , folks the future ain’t looking good at all. If anything this tree should banned or strict controlled growing of same .

Kenya is officially a water stressed nation. If we fail to take action , one day you may have the money but there is no water to buy. Scary Isn’t it .

I have also said on numerous occasion that a messed up environment hits back with a vengeance. Nature does not file case in court .

I am NOT a science student but where have all the environmentalist gone ?

Way Forward. Farmers ought to get rid of this tree and replace with Bamboo which is more soil friendly and quick growing.

Looming disaster indeed but as always I choose to remain am optimist .

Mohammed Hersi

Chairman

Kenya Tourism Federation

Restoring Kibarani is a good thing but please spare us the articial turf & wildlife sculptures.

Artificial turf and wildbeeste sculptures at new Kibarani is a No No

While we commend Mombasa County and our Governor H.E Hassan Joho for cleaning up our city and closure of Kibarani we must also point out when things are not moving in the right direction.

Restoration of any site and more so a former dumpsite we must engage environmentalist and we are certainly not short of them . True environmentalists are like Doctors , they are so passionate about matters environment in that it is almost a calling.

I am an not environmentalist but I take very keen interest and I read widely on same besides without a healthy environment we can kiss goodbye to tourism.

I am shocked to see artificial turf being laid out at Kibarani. Artificial turf is not creative at all for a park . A park is meant to absorb heat , dust and rain. A park is meant to help a city breathe. Someone at the county is now getting obsessed with artificial turf and if it is a case of supplies let the contractor do some serious work of natural restoration. Laying an artificial turf is simply being lazy.

Artificial turf for the island kerbs along Mwembe Tayari we can live with that but at a public park which you are trying to restore is a big No .

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel , simply borrow a leaf from Haller Park and see what a true restoration should look like .

Man made pond in Butterfly Pavillion in Haller Park. Mombasa

We need indigenous trees , we need plants that can help clean the toxic dumpsite. We need to see water features to attract birdlife . When we have good growth of different species you attract insects, when you attract insects birds will follow and if you give them appropriate trees to nest then that becomes their home. A park is where you go to be with nature and some artificial turf is NOT nature. It does not absorb any heat it is the wrong thing to have .

A park is where you have benches and go to relax. Giving us sculptures of wildbeestes in Mombasa is a No No . Marine life is facing serious dangers , why not focus on endangered marine life ? Use the same to help our children learn about marine life . Set a marine theme around it .

I am afraid someone who is not creative is making nonsense of a very noble project . If they did JKIA with animal sculptures I am sorry this is the wrong concept and waste of time and money. My Bro Joho please don’t allow this to happen .

It is NOT too late and we can still do the right thing . Restoring Kibarani dumpsite with artificial turf and sculptures of wildlife is simply a shortcut and lacking creativity.

One final bit , let’s not get overly excited about removing the causeway . That causeway is holding 50 years of trash. Are we ready for all that trash to swamp the beach and our waters ?? We must mitigate how to keep away the trash from moving across to Tudor, English Point open seas then to Diani and Watamu . It will be catastrophic.

Think hard folks

Mohammed Hersi
Chairman
Kenya Tourism Federation

Kenya We Are UNBOWED.

The Kenyan Smile qualifies to be The Big Six

On behalf of Kenyas tourism fraternity we would like to send our heartfelt condolences to all those who lost their loved ones . Those of us in the hotel industry we lost people known to us . Many innocent Kenyans going about their daily chores met untimely death.

To the injured we pray for your quick recovery . To the affected businesses we pray for you to rise like the proverbial bird Phoenix .

To our gallant brave forces YOU guys are special , Kenya Red cross and very many brave Kenyans and many other people including members of the International community who took part in the rescue process we cannot thank you enough.

Kenyas Special Elite Force swing into action.

We are unbowed and as Kenyans we are stronger more than ever before .

Terror attacks should NOT define Kenya. We are peace loving people. We are ONE of the friendliest humans on mother earth. A Kenyan smile is so natural that it compliments the Big 5 that attracts millions to visit Kenya . The fact that many Diplomats and expatriates would find any reason to remain behind after their term of office is enough proof that Kenya is one of the best places to call home. I would never trade Kenya for anything else.

Within hours of the attack Kenyans of all walks of life rushed to the nearest hospitals that were expecting casualties to donate blood. Within an hour blood banks were full and a stand down was issued. As night fell at the scene of the incident ordinary Kenyans came to serve a hot meal to the rescuers. An old lady was on site on her own to serve hot tea to keep everyone warm as they worked hard to secure safe passage for anyone still trapped in the building. This is the true spirit of Kenya , this is who we are .

For tourism , 5 or 10 years ago the world would have isolated us when such an attack happened but not anymore. The same has happened in far more sophisticated cities like London , Brussels , Paris New York et al. No city in the world can claim to be 100 insulated from a terror attack . We thank the International community for standing with Kenya and these days they are not quick to judge and punish the victims a second time with painful travel advisories. When it happened in Paris , world leaders converged there as a show of solidarity .

We are down but never out. Kenyans are resilient, our will to thrive is as strong as steel and as brave as a lion. If you had planned to come to visit Kenya please do so , nothing should stop you . We live here close to 50 million of us , We are not about to relocate. We sleep and wake up here. Our children go to school right here . We lead normal lives so anyone asking you to defer your travel plans would be totally ignorant. You are not any safer in LA or New York , London or Mumbai , Paris or Madrid.

To the media including the local media, to report you must but do it with decorum and civility. The victims are already traumatised enough . Splashing their terrified faces as headlines in your papers is quite insensitive . To the likes of New York Times you cannot have two set of rules . We have never seen a picture of the hundreds killed by shooters across America. Journalism ethos is global and victims anywhere in the world deserve their privacy.

Our security forces have nibbed many other planned attacks behind the scenes . When one one attack happens please keep in mind that 10 others have been foiled some very serious ones and our security team work 24/7 round the clock to protect us. If Kenya is safe for ordinary Kenyans then it should also be safe for you as our visitor.

God Bless Magical Kenya and as always I choose to remain an optimist.

Mohammed Hersi
Chairman
Kenya Tourism Federation

Nairobi Traffic Mess. We need a mass system like Bangkok & Addis. Not more roads.

A sky train saves on space .

Our city of Nairobi is slowly grinding to a halt and thanks to the traffic mess and clueless city fathers for the last many years . None other than Ricahrd Quest of CNN noticed the snail pace of vehicular traffic which undermines all the efforts by the goverment to attract any FDI. A couple of years ago I did share my thoughts on how to rid Nbi off traffic gridlock and why I felt building a suspended road along Uhuru Highway was such a bad idea.

My position has still not not changed. I have been fortunate enough to visit Bangkok and next door Addis Ababa who recently launched their light sky train. We need a sky train in the middle of Mombasa Road and Uhuru highway and NOT a suspended highway.

I note that GOK seems to be in the final stages to build a suspended highway that will also serve JKIA and hopefully they claim it it will be on a toll charge.

In light of the recent mess , what Nbi needs is NOT more roads . What Nbi now needs is an orderly mass transport system .We claim Nbi’s population is now too high , please allow me to remind you that Bangkok is hitting 20 Million while Cairo is also very similar while Nbi is yet to even hit 4Million officially and we are already tired with traffic gridlock. What will happen if we do nothing and we get to 10 Million?

Addis sky train . If Addis can do it let it inspire Nairobi

Nairobi and even those who own cars would be happy to take a sky train and leave their cars at home . I will be happy to take my train at JKIA to downtown Nbi .

What we need in Nairobi are three major lines just like Bangkok. One line should run from Athi River and in future Machakos all the way to Kangemi through Uhuru Highway.

2nd line from Ongata Rongai through Haile Sellassie through Kariokor along Thika Higway to Thika and Makutano.

3rd line outer ring to serve Eastlands. Close the rubbish tired Kenya Railways.

Each train has close to 8 coaches and each coach can take 60 pax which means 3 Manyangas or 25 seater PSV . Goverrmnt and Nairobi county under a PPP will build the line then Matatu Saccos will lease the coaches which means the current Matatus workers will be absorbed to run these lines which means job loss fears would have been addressed.

This could be Mombasa Road / Uhuru Highway

Many Nairobians drive to town . Get a secure parking and hit the city on foot. If given an option they will happily leave their car at home sparing Nbi the traffic gridlock.

I am not a transport expert but I keep my eyes open when I travel so how comes our policy makers cannot see such simple options to fix our traffic gridlock.

As you read this over the weekend, it is my prayer that our go goverment and donors abandon the suspended road from the airport but opt for sky train.

Without addressing a good mass transport system I am sorry anything else like extra road Thika highway style is waste of time . It will be just a matter of time before traffic takes over. You can build nore roads in future but first we must prioritise a mass transport system

Well as always I choose to remain an optimist but sadly time is of the essence .

Mohammed Hersi

Chairman

Kenya Tourism Federation