Kenya tourism weighs the cost of introducing electric vehicles to wildlife parks

Kenya recently announced that its national parks and game reserves will only allow non-fossil fuel access to its national parks and game reserves by 2030. In addition, all tourism and hotel facilities will be required to adapt renewable energy and circular economy in their operations. . The cabinet secretary for tourism in Kenya stated that this was a necessary move as Kenya is a founding member of the new global hub for sustainable tourism.

But the move will come with huge challenges, chiefly the cost of electric vehicles in Kenya’s historic parks.

This comes as the industry is faced with transport being the main source of greenhouse gas emissions from tourism. On average, planes and cars generate the most CO2 per passenger mile, followed far behind by tour buses, ferries and trains. Following the recent United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow, nearly 200 countries pledged to review and strengthen their 2030 emission reduction plans next year, keeping the door open for the crucial 1.5° temperature target. c.

Kenya relies heavily on tourism and rainfed agriculture, which are unfortunately susceptible to climate change and extreme weather events. Kenya’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions amounted to about 16 million metric tons in 2020, up from 18.3 million metric tons the previous year, according to Statista. Despite this decline, since 2000 there has been an increase in the volumes of emissions from fossil fuels and industry in the country. And for this reason, it is necessary for the government to take the necessary measures and ensure sustainability to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.

The move has been met with mixed feelings among players. Gerard Beaton, chief operating officer of safari operator Asilia, said the camps have long run on solar power and have banned single-use plastic, and that replacing the fuel-guzzling engines of safari cars is the last resort. He passed.

“We charge our electric cars from our solar plant, so our sets actually have considerably lower emissions over their lifetime than conventional (internal combustion engine) vehicles,” he said.

‘Huge financial outlay’

Although this is a worthy initiative, the cost perspective weighs heavily.

“This is a huge financial outlay for our national parks after two years with almost no revenue. But Kenya would be setting an incredible example to the world of how to take care of its wild places. We already have a ban on single-use plastic in conservation areas, (going) to just having electric cars would really be setting a global standard,” Beaton explained.

He also adds that it will be a great initiative only if the vehicles will be charged from solar plants.

“It is essential that we use renewable energy sources. In keeping with the above, electric safari vehicles not only enhance the guest experience, but are also better for the environment. I saw that Uber will introduce 3,000 electric motorcycles in Nairobi; this will make a big difference to the quality of life in the city with less noise and emissions,” he said.

For Asilia, the switch to an electric safari car was really the final piece in the puzzle of running a low-impact safari operation. Its first electric safari car started with Ol Pejeta Bush Camp in August 2019 and converting the safari car cost Asilia $37,000. This, according to camp officials, was a significant upfront cost that many businesses after two years of reduced Covid-related revenue will find difficult to come by. However, Opibus (now ROAM), the company that made Asilia’s electric safari vehicles, estimates that by operating an electric safari vehicle, industry players will save $7,000 in fuel and service costs, so we It will take 5 years to break even. Despite the cost, Beaton said this has revolutionized his guest experience.

“Enthusiastic photographers are particularly enthusiastic about the car, as the drive is much smoother and there are no more jerky gear changes, creating ideal conditions for photography. It’s also quieter, so it’s easier to enjoy the sounds of the bush,” he noted.

For Emboo, the first lodge in Kenya and beyond to have its entire fleet of Solar Powered Safari Vehicles, the vision of sustainability started early on when they began operating in the country. For them, having the electric safari vehicle has offered a unique way to explore the Masaai Mara.

“The vehicles are solar powered, quiet, have no exhaust fumes and do not disturb wildlife. You will be able to enjoy game drives listening to the sounds of nature, enjoying the scents of the savannah and getting up close to your favorite animals without disturbing the animals. You can really be a part of nature,” said Valery Joanne Super, director of sales and marketing for Camp Emboo.

He added that electric vehicles increase observation opportunities for tour guides, as they can now use all of their senses while guiding.

“Recently, guests were on safari when the guide heard a soft roar in the distance. Normally the sound would not be heard on a standard engine. The guide drove towards the sound and found a leopard with cubs in the bushes which the guests enjoyed,” he continued.

Although the initial investment is higher, Valery pointed out that its operating costs are much lower, which makes it a smart decision for the business.

“In addition to being the right thing to do for our community and ecosystem, the vehicles don’t need fuel and maintenance is minimal. As you may have noticed the fuel situation in Kenya has led to high prices and fuel shortages at stations, hostels with old ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles or with generators powering their fridges, lights are experiencing range anxiety due to this. The ones with electric vehicles are fine,” he said.

Innovation hub to inspire

As a result, the camp now has an innovation center in the Masaai Mara to inspire and train other tourism stakeholders in sustainability. They also receive a roadmap on how to develop their own sustainable business, community center or daily lifestyle.

“Emboo River offers consultancy to help businesses in the tourism space and beyond make their operations sustainable. It’s better for the environment, smooth business operations, cost savings, independence from world events and price gouging, and we’re here to help others make this change,” Valery said.

Although he is confident that electric is the way forward and hopes to see improvements in the country specific to gaming driving vehicles. Mohanjeet Brar, managing director of Gamewatchers Safaris, hasn’t made the switch yet because he doesn’t make any financial sense for his business.

“Unfortunately, Kenya does not seem to be benefiting from the reduced costs of battery/solar technology yet. Also, my friends who bought them have some problems and the battery life is not enough for some. It’s nearly double the price of a new vehicle once you factor in the cost of the campground charging facility. Of course, if you have to use a generator to charge the car, then it completely defeats the purpose,” he said.

For John Musau, general manager of the Tamarind Tree Hotel, this directive will be a costly affair as most tour operators who take their guests to Nairobi National Park, which is just a few minutes from the hotel, have tour vans both diesel as gasoline. .

“The main negatives are the high maintenance and purchase costs, which will put many tour operators and local hotels out of work. Our hotel will surely be affected as most of our clients want to do day trips to Nairobi national park. If we will not have such vehicles, it means that we will not be as attractive to foreign tourists as we are today,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.