Mountain tourism and its contribution to development in western Mt. Kenya Region: an assessment using the value chain approach
Mountain tourism constitutes special tourism activities which rely on the unique conditions of mountain areas. These activities require tourists to travel to peripheral areas within mountain regions requiring an array of services supplied by a network of service providers. The backward and forward sectoral linkages and the resultant trickle-down effects thus makes mountain tourism a viable tool for spreading development impacts to peripheral regions. This study sought to investigate the nature of mountain tourism in the Mt. Kenya region in Kenya, with an attempt to determine its subsequent direct and indirect contribution towards regional development through the analysis of the accommodation, food and beverage, souvenirs, travel arrangements and excursions value chains. The study was based on the Western side of the Mt. Kenya region represented by Nyeri North, Meru and Laikipia counties. It focused on mountain tourists, employees in accommodation facilities, curio shops, local households, local tour operators, accommodation facilities management, guides and porters and key informants from the government and private sector as key players in the mountain tourism industry. Both primary and secondary data was collected through literature review, questionnaire administration, interviews, focus group discussions and observation. Spatial data was collected using GPS. Descriptive statistics were applied in data analysis which included frequencies, percentages, cross tabulations, and averages. The data was presented through graphs, charts, tables, photographs and maps. The study’s main findings were; that mountain tourism had low linkages with other sectors in the region; minimal involvement of the local community and poor integration of mountain tourism in the region’s main development agenda. Three models of spatial and non-spatial intervention were proposed, which mainly advocated for the integration of mountain tourism and agriculture; diversification of the mountain tourism product and establishment of growth centers towards enhancing linkages between the tourism industry and the region’s key sectors, and promoting the local community’s participation and control of the industry.