Democratising access to nature: new conservation tourism products for domestic African markets


Context: International nature tourism has grown extremely rapidly over the last decade, but there is one key area where its potential has not yet been fulfilled. Despite rapidly expanding urban-based middle classes in Africa, this politically powerful demographic does not enjoy adequate exposure to the continent’s natural heritage – parks and reserves are too difficult or expensive to reach, and constituent tourism price-points tend to target more affluent foreign markets.

Our Role: This ‘missing middle’ has become a key focus for Conservation Capital exemplified by two Kenya-based projects: Ol Pejeta Conservancy at a protected area level; and African Forest Lodges (AFL) at an individual enterprise level.  With a US$ 1.2 million investment from AWC, AFL is building two eco-lodges in the Aberdare forest ecosystem – a significant wildlife landscape and also the capital city’s principal water tower.  Its tourism development concessions are the first to be issued by the Kenya Forest Service – an important precedent in terms of diversifying the economic base of Kenya’s critically endangered forest assets. The proximity of its first lodges to Nairobi and the accessibility of it price point will target the fast growing domestic urban middle class, and hence leverage a unique opportunity to raise domestic awareness of a critical piece of Kenya’s natural heritage and the importance of its conservation.

Outcomes: The Ol Pejeta Conservancy now welcomes nearly 60,000 visitors per year – the vast majority from Kenya. Once open, AFL anticipates hosting between 6,000-8,000 guests per year - the vast majority being Kenyan residents of Nairobi and its environs.  In addition to its conservation messaging value, this is also key to risk management. Recent political and security related challenges have seen a 30-40% decrease in international visitation, but at Ol Pejeta this has been completely offset by a significant increase in domestic visitors.