A friend recently asked me to help her find a voluntourism trip to Kenya, I thought this would be pretty straight forward but it wasn’t. I remember that Kenya used to be one of the most popular destinations for voluntourism before the 2008 riots and was shocked that I really had a hard time to find operators that were offering trips to Kenya now.
I think that brings up a good question: How soon after a disaster (whether natural or political) should we send volunteers back into a country? Haven’t you, as an operator, made a commitment to support that local community? What effect does political instability have on bookings and in turn your financial commitment to the community?
What is your company’s policy? How do you maintain a sustainable presence during unstable times?
Some food for thought, a friend, Sarah Fazendin, who is my local expert on all things Kenya wrote this little blurb for me:
After the post-election crisis back in 2008, the Kenyan tourism industry came together, put travelers needs first and put their own needs and the profitability of their companies second. Not one single tourist was put into harms way during the short period of isolated post-election violence back in 2008. The Kenyan tourism industry should be recognized and applauded for how brilliantly they handled this situation. But despite these efforts what followed was one of the worst years for tourism on record in 2008 for the country as a result of this brief incident in early 2008, followed by the global economic crisis in 2009. But again Kenya should be recognized for their efforts, instead of slashing prices and eroding the strong brand of luxury many companies there had taken years to establish, we saw companies taking this time to refurbish properties, train staff and continue to enhance their products. Today, Kenya remains the home of the classic African safari and has more to offer travelers in terms of diversity of product and wildlife an perhaps any other country in Africa. The country is safe, stable and positive changes continue to be made. As in all African countries, it’s important to travel with a reputable tour operator who is connected to the flying doctors and the tourism police unit and should any issue arise ,and ensure that travelers will be quickly and efficiently looked after, which was excited so well back in early 2008.
From a vountourism perspective, there is still much need in Kenya, both in the cities and in rural areas, and since the country has such a well developed tourism infrastructure the opportunities for voluntourism are great.