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Elephants in the Masai Mara

KENYA LEADS THE WAY IN ECO-TOURISM

Kenya is one of the global leaders in community-based ecotourism, working with the many local tribes to develop innovative ways to protect the environment and local culture.

A leader in innovative eco-lodges, Kenya has won many international eco-lodge awards. Il N'gwesi and Tortillis Camp both won the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow award in recent years. Ol Donyo Wuas was a finalist for the same award this year.

Kenya is ahead of the ecotourism pack in other areas as well, planning to be Africa's first country to develop and use international criteria to rate eco-lodges and tour operators.

Started in October 1999 by Dr. David Western and Neel Inamdar, The Ecotourism Society of Kenya hopes to complete the "eco-ratings" in 2002, giving Kenya's tourists an opportunity to choose a 3 star or a 4 star eco-lodge, based on internationally accepted criteria. These criteria also provide Kenya's eco-lodges and tour operators the tools they need to compete in the global market as one of the world's top ecotourism destinations.

Kenya also received a recent international ecotourism coup when The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), representing an international membership network that includes tour operators, academics, and government officials in 110 countries, recognised East Africa's reputation for strong ecotourism practices and chose Nairobi as the venue for the International Year of Ecotourism (IYE) African ecotourism conference.

The United Nations has declared 2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism (IYE), providing a forum for the world to understand the synergy between conservation, cultural awareness and community benefits through tourism. TIES chose six global locations for the regional conferences, offering the opportunity to critically assess ecotourism's future in each region. Findings from the March 20-22 Nairobi ecotourism conference will be represented at the May 2002 World Ecotourism Summit in Quebec City, Canada, allowing Kenya's best ecotourism practices and ideas to be heard globally.

Anne Loehr, director of Eco-resorts, an eco-friendly safari operator that creates environmentally and culturally orientated (eco) trips is sold on the future of Kenya's ecotourism. "I have traveled all over the world visiting eco-lodges and working with the best people in the global ecotourism market. Kenya has some of the brightest minds working together to create a sustainable future for the environment and local culture. There's no better place to experience ecotourism than here."

For more information on Kenya's ecotourism, please contact The Ecotourism Society of Kenya (ESOK) at 02-229970 or www.esok.org.

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