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WISHING YOU WEREN’T HERE…

Some stories carried in the press leave you so incredulous that you have to read them twice to make sure your eyes weren’t deceiving you and then check the date on the newspaper to see that it’s not April 1st.

Try the story on the front page and on page 68 of the Sport section of The Daily Nation on Thursday.  The organizers of the Utrecht Marathon in The Netherlands are trying to discourage Kenyan athletes from taking part by offering them only Sh12,100 if they win the event whereas a Dutch winner will receive Sh210,000. It’s true…

Apparently Kenyan athletes are winning too many long distance races in Holland, including last year in Rotterdam, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Enschede and Leiden. A Kenyan, Wilson Chebet, also won this year’s Rotterdam Marathon and the women’s race was also won by a woman, Philes Ongori. (A Dutch woman came second by the way, Hilda Kibet… she was born in Kenya).

The Dutch newspaper Volkskrant quoted race director, sorry, event director, Louran van Keulen, stating that the prize differential was legal under Dutch law but outright banning was not. The DutchNews.nl website confirmed that “discouraging them [Kenyans] from taking part is legal”.

Athletics Kenya (AK) secretary, David Okeyo, announced that AK was withdrawing Kenya from the competition altogether. “What they are doing is not fair as far as the rules and spirit of the competition are concerned… it is discrimination of the highest order”, he said.

The Forum thought that the decision of the Dutch to try and “discourage” Kenyans from taking part in their marathons was the dumbest thing we were likely to read this week but we were wrong. There’s more than one way to discourage people from visiting your country.

A few months ago there was a comment article in The Business Daily by an in-house journalist that argued for a rise in visa charges for those entering Kenya. We nearly commented on it at the time but it seemed such a stupid idea – Kenya needs more tourists and other visitors so let’s charge them more for coming into the country and make them queue longer – that we decided it wasn’t worth it.

Well lo and behold, on the same day as the daft Dutch marathon story was covered in the press the Business Daily revealed that the Immigration Department have announced that as of July 1st this year the cost of entry visas will double, from Sh2,100 to Sh4,200 for an ordinary visa for example.

Now we are not saying that an extra charge of 2,100 bob will put off many visitors but it won’t help and the laws of economics will come into play – raise the price and restrict the demand. Not only that but the best marketing for Kenya’s wonderful tourist potential is for those that visit our country to return again, and to tell others what a great place it is to come to for a holiday. First impressions last and the first impression people get of Kenya is at the airport.

National Park charges are also to be increased – welcome to Kenya, have a nice day – which brings the Forum on to one other and final point. Narok City Council has immediately moved to increasing fees to camp in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. The Forum, along with many others would like to know what happens to the Sh30 million a day that Narok City Council receives from the existing revenue. We don’t know because they don’t produce accounts to tell us…

Zimbabwe military press conference

Raila Odinga Speech at the CSIS Washington DC, USA

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