Kenya: tourism hit hard by travel warnings from Western countries

Kenya’s tourism stakeholders said the latest travel warnings issued by Western countries for their nationals to avoid travel to the country’s coast, northern region and other parts of Nairobi will dampen efforts to revive the sector.

Kenya Coast Tourist Association chairman Mohamed Hersi said the move by Australia and Britain was a major blow to the tourism sector which was recovering from terror attacks by Somalia-based terrorist group Al-Shabaab.

Hersi said some 25 hotels have so far been shut down in the coastal towns, adding that more are set to close down after the Easter holiday because of the latest advisories.

“Close to 20,000 employees have lost their jobs while multi- million investments are looking at gloomy future,” he said in a statement received on Monday.

The tourism industry, Kenya’s second foreign exchange earner after tea, is headed for the doldrums following persistent terrorist threats.

Hersi said just when the industry was slowly recovering from the effects of the Westgate terrorist attacks in 2013 in Nairobi, it was dealt a severe blow by the travel advisories issued by Western governments, warning their citizens against travelling to Kenya.

The enormous loss suffered by the industry, which employs about 3 million people, 500,000 directly and the rest being suppliers, cannot be gainsaid.

“We respect and appreciate that the Western nations have a duty to their citizens, but they also need to remember that friendly nations must work together to deal with terror threats,” said Hersi who is also the CEO of Heritage Hotels.

“The historic ties between Britain and Kenya go way back and we expect far better treatment when it comes to such matters. Let us not sugar coat the impact of non essential travel. It is nothing short of economic embargo and it is devastating,” he added.

According to the tourism stakeholders, every week, for the six weeks that the travel advisories remained in force, the country lost a whopping 1 million U.S. dollars in tourism earnings and other revenue.

The Al-Shabaab terror group has warned of more retaliatory attacks in the country particularly in Mombasa where radicals Muslim have been executed and several youth arrested for engaging in terror activities.

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers’ Coast Branch CEO Sam Ikwaye said the travel advisories especially from Britain is likely to hit the industry hard.

Ikwaye said the number of international tourists visiting the region would drop further and called on coastal county governments to suspend levies on tourism to save the sector from total collapse.

Kenya Association of Tour Operators Coast branch chairperson Monika Solanki said some tour firms were likely to close down due to a decline in the number of visitors following the travel updates.

She said the current number of charter flights from Europe to Mombasa stands at two a week, down from four a week last month.

“The number of tour vans taking tourists to the Tsavo East National Park stands at eight a day, down from 75 a day,” she said.