The Ecotourism Certification Standards series continues with the Ecotourism Kenya Eco-Rating certification. Kenya boasts seven diverse habitats within its borders; they range from open savannah to sandy beaches, deep forests to snow-capped mountains, wild deserts to coral reefs and river deltas. Besides elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions, and leopards, several endangered species can be found in Kenya including the Grevy zebra, black rhino, African hunting dog, sable, and Hirola antelope. Not surprisingly, Kenya has a long tradition of hosting safari travelers and relying on tourism receipts for much of its gross national product.
In 2006, the membership organization Ecotourism Kenya was founded to promote ecotourism and sustainable tourism as well as link communities, tourism and conservation efforts nationwide. Through its 3 main programs of community outreach, sustainable tourism best practice dissemination, and administration of a certification program, Ecotourism Kenya aims to further tourism organizations to:
- Protect, conserve and invest in the environment
- Minimize and reduce waste
- Prevent pollution
- Respect local people and their cultures
- Encourage linkages with local communities
- Responsibly use land, water, energy and cultural resources
- Share equitably the responsibilities and benefits of tourism
- Educate tourists
The voluntary Eco-Rating certification is open to all hotels, lodges, camp, bush homes, and traditional huts (bandas). Because accommodation managers also conduct tours and offer activities, ecotour operators in Kenya would be classified under one of the aforementioned categories.
There are 3 levels of certification, namely Bronze, Silver and Gold with each level having additional requirements besides earning a certain score from the self-assessment questionnaire. The process for certification is:
- Tour operator registers application request online
- Tour operator completes a self-assessment and submits the results along with supporting documentation and the requested type of Eco-Rating (Bronze, Silver, Gold) to the Ecotourism Kenya secretariat
- Tour operator lists one reference working in the conservation/tourism industry
- If Bronze, the tour operator’s application goes through a desk audit
- If Silver or Gold, the tour operator’s application undergoes a desk audit and field audit, which is conducted by an independent third-party, to verify the self-assessment
- All audits are followed by committee review to determine whether the tour operator will receive the rating
- Tour operator is notified whether the application resulted in an Eco-Rating award
Regardless of the Eco-Rating achieved, each tour operator submits to random spot checks to ensure compliance with requirements. In addition, Ecotourism Kenya requires that another audit be completed within 24 months of the first audit.
Ecotourism Kenya also offers best practice guidelines for alternative energy management, waste management, water conservation and human-wildlife conflict resolution.
Click for more information and a list of Ecotourism Kenya Eco-Rated businesses.