Hoteliers from the Kenya coast are beginning to count their losses following the recent travel advisories by western governments that have seen scores of tourists cut short their holidays.
In an updated travel advisory on the British High Commission website, the British government advises its citizens to avoid travelling to Eastleigh in Nairobi and areas within 60 kilometres of the Kenya-Somalia border.
Citing the recent blasts which have occurred in Mombasa and Nairobi, the British government warns of a high threat of terrorism and kidnapping and advises its citizens to take a comprehensive travel and medical cover before visiting Kenya.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) further advises against non-essential travel to coastal areas of Kenya and the Kenya-Somali border.
“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border; to Kiwayu and coastal areas north of Pate Island; to Garissa District; to the Eastleigh area of Nairobi; and to low income areas of Nairobi, including all township or slum areas due to high crime levels. These areas include, but are not limited to, Kibera, Mathare, Huruma, Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Mukuru Kwa Reuben, Korogocho, Kariobangi Kangemi, Mwiki and Kawangwar.” Reads part of the security alert on local travel.
EVACUATION OF BRITISH TOURISTS
The British newspaper The Telegraph reports that “hundreds of British tourists are already being evacuated on chartered flights from Kenya’s coast after the Foreign Office warned them to leave because of terror threats.”
“Holidaymakers with Thomson and First Choice were told that their dream long-haul trips were being cut short and that they should pack and prepare to travel to the airport in convoys of coaches under armed guard. Both companies said they were cancelling flights to Mombasa until at least October.” reads a section of the article in The Telegraph.
France, Australia and America, have also issued similar security alerts, warning on the dangers of traveling to Kenya.
“U.S. citizens in Kenya, and those considering travel to Kenya, should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime in some areas.
The levels of risk vary throughout the country. This replaces the Travel Warning of April 4, 2014, to update information about the current security situation. The U.S. government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya, including the Nairobi area and the coastal cities of Mombasa and Diani.” reads a section of the alert issued by the US.
BAD NEWS FOR KENYA’S TOURISM SECTOR
This is bad news for Kenya’s tourism sector. The UK and US provide the top two sources of visitors to Kenya with 149,699 from the UK coming to the country in 2013 and 115,636 from the US.
Other significant contributors to Kenyan tourism are Italy with 79,993 visitors from there in 23013, India with 64,887, and Germany 60,450.
Last year Kenya’s tourism sector was worth Sh93.97 billion to the economy.
KENYAN GOVERNMENT CONDEMNS ‘UNFRIENDLY’ SECURITY ALERTS.
The Kenyan government has strongly criticized the warnings, terming them ‘unfriendly’. According to Karanja Kibicho, the Principal Secretary at the Foreign Affairs Department, the travel advisory are raising unnecessary tensions and causing fear.
“The advisories therefore are obviously unfriendly acts coming from our partners who have equally borne the brunt of global terrorism and no doubt understand the repercussions of terror menace,” Kibicho said in a statement.
“Issuance of such travel advisories only plays to the whims of bad elements on society whose aim is to spread fear and panic among otherwise peace loving people,” he said.
KENYATTA – “THEY CAN GO IF THEY WANT”
Speaking in Kikuyu town on Sunday, President Kenyatta said Kenya will now concentrate on local tourists and visitors from ‘friendly’ countries.
“Now they [western countries] are issuing travel advisories and evacuating their citizens over the terror incidents”, the President said, “and we are telling them that they can go if they want; we will do our own thing here. We are there to promote domestic tourism and we will shop for tourists in other nations.”
This is hard-hitting stuff but Kenyatta must now that it is bravado over practical reality.
Over 500 tourists have already checked out of hotels along the Indian Ocean coast, the biggest tourist destination in Kenya and many others will now not come to Kenya because of the terrorist attacks, travel warnings and coverage in the international media.
MORE CONSIDERED RESPONSE NEEDED
A more considered response was needed from President Kenyatta but then again a more considered response was needed from western governments.
Aside from the often stated plea by western leaders that we are all together in the fight against terrorism the recent attacks in Kenya should be put in perspective.
Try this. Kenya has seen 12 explosions since the Westgate attack last year in which 30 people have unfortunately died. On average, each and every day in South Africa, there are over 50 murders and a similar number of rapes (and that’s just from official statistics). Has the west issued a travel ban to South Africa?