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Wetangula Says Prestige Lowered

Statement by foreign minister of Kenya angers tourism sector

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN  Jul 01, 2010

(eTN) Kenya’s foreign minister Moses Wetangula recently appeared before a parliamentary committee and claimed “the reduction of visa fees [down last year from 50 to 25 US dollars for foreign visitors] lowered Kenya’s international prestige and reduced earnings from tourism.” Flabbergasted tourism stakeholders rushed their opinions to this correspondent, claiming the minister not only mis-spoke but displayed a complete lack of understanding and was out of order to make claims which could not be supported by fact.

The Minister for Tourism had advocated strongly at the time, when the world economic crisis had come home to roost and tourism arrivals were dropping fast, to lower visa fees as part of a strategic package put together by the private and public sector to bring visitor numbers back up, and going by the arrival data available from the Kenya Tourist Board (KTB), this approach has worked for them. The foreign minister’s statements that “Kenya is now leveled as a cheap destination” and “we have lost out on high-quality tourism” was also met with bewilderment, as a series of new properties on the safari sector along Kenya’s beaches have been awarded international recognition for their quality in recent months, achieving “Best in Africa” status. Staying in such properties can now easily reach between US$500 to US$1,500 per day – not exactly lending credibility to the minister’s extraordinarily misleading statements that Kenya was “cheap.”

Tourism stakeholders in Nairobi and Mombasa were left scratching their heads over what may have prompted the minister’s outbursts, and one regular source added: “Tourism is not a sector to play around with; the minister’s statement is plain and simple wrong, because lowering the visa fees was part of creating a business environment to bring the tourists back. Government may have lost on the fees, but the sector overall has more than made up for that loss in many multiples through taxes, retaining and creating new jobs in tourism and new investments. We are looking at a record year in terms of arrivals for 2010. Arrival numbers are up 30 percent and revenue is up by nearly 20 percent. Who gave the foreign minister such a briefing with no substance? Who knows, maybe he just shot off his mouth trying to gloss over some other problems he has elsewhere. But he must know, leave tourism alone; we have a competent minister ourselves and need no lectures from other ministers who know little or nothing about the tourism industry.”

Meanwhile, tourist board and ministry of tourism sources remained diplomatically silent, but it can be expected that the tourism minister will have a word with his colleague overseeing foreign affairs to give him some facts and figures and avoid future outbursts of this nature, which are, needless to point out, not helpful for Kenya’s international reputation abroad.

Statement by foreign minister of Kenya angers tourism sector
Kenya’s foreign minister Moses Wetangula / Image via

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