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Africa Unscrambled

Trying to get the tourists back

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Mar 03, 2008

The front page of today's Daily Nation in Kenya has a big picture of Raila Odinga and his wife Ida relaxing at a luxury Indian Ocean resort. In true British tabloid tradition Raila is reading a copy of the Nation.

Kenya's tourist industry, the country's largest foreign currency earner, has taken a real battering over the last two months. Raila's "holiday" is an attempt to show the world that Kenya is open again to tourists now a power-sharing agreement has been signed. Whether it will work is another matter.

The post-election violence didn't get anywhere near most of the main tourist spots, as the country's tour operators repeatedly claimed. But unsurprisingly, tourists decided that the images of machete-wielding mobs, burning roadblocks and police opening fire on protesters all made Kenya a place best not to visit.

As Kenya's tourism industry has gone down the pan, others have tried to take advantage. CNN is running an advert for Tanzania (Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Zanzibar...) - something I've never seen before. The British foreign office is still warning that areas around Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru could become a "flash-point for violence", but at least they're not sticking Kenya in the same category as Iraq any longer.

My advice? Come to Kenya. Not only is it a great country - but there are hardly any other tourists here.

Trying to get the tourists back

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