Tourism numbers in Kenya down
Kenya tourism stands together to face aftermath of Nairobi incident
(eTN) - Key stakeholders from the private and public sector in Kenya, as well as association leaders, have stood up to be counted yesterday and condemned the criminal masterminds and perpetrators of the bombing of a shop on Moi Avenue, which injured, according to the latest figures, some 27 people, some still in critical but stable condition.
While in Kenya during the past two weeks, it could be ascertained that the arrival numbers for Q1, compared with last year’s record-breaking performance, reduced from 313,691 to 312,258, probably also still caused by events since August last year, which prompted a full-scale military engagement from Kenya’s armed forces against militant Islamist terror groups, which previously roamed Southern Somalia at will and perpetrated a number of cross-border attacks into Kenyan territory.
With the Lamu anti-travel advisories, however, largely lifted a few weeks ago, as was reported here, the mood of cautious confidence has been restored in the sector, though no one is happy with the government’s reduction by 5 percent of the annual budget for tourism marketing, which after inflation has been factored in can amount to up to 20 percent less in real-term spending power compared to 2011/12.
Senior association leaders have voiced critique and are said to be in talks with government over re-evaluating its position and adding extra funds, especially now that the Nairobi incident of Monday will further impact on the sectoral performance.
Said one regular and trusted source on the phone before leaving Kenya yesterday: “This blast, even so no one was killed, highlights our problems to provide universal full security everywhere at all times. Resorts, hotels, restaurants take it very seriously, and you have seen the level of security in place at all the coast resorts at the Nairobi hotels. Remember last we talked, not one tourist visitor came to harm in 2008, not in any of the events since August, but for the one foreign resident and the one couple shot and abducted from Kiwayu by foreign-based intruders. When something happens in Kenya, the foreign media often make us look like a hooligan country full of violence, compared with the UK and their violent crime rate for instance.
“The foreign media all the time [has] a field day with us, and I exclude you and eTurboNews.com, because you always show the facts and not take that insane pleasure others do to bash us. But that apart, we have a struggle at hand in Kenya to match last year’s figures and will probably miss them by a bit.
“The other issue is that we really want to see a firm commitment to the March election dates for next year and not wake up one morning and it is December suddenly. We must be allowed to have the high season run uninterrupted and then have the elections fall into the low season period where it will do less impact. The biggest issues now are two: to have government commit more funds for marketing of tourism, start the construction of the Mombasa International Convention Centre, and focus on market diversification; and secondly, we internally must work on product upgrading.
“When someone says some of the beach resorts are tired, it is true. We need innovation and changes. Over the past years, we had one major new beach resort open, Swahili Beach in Diani, but several others closed for various reasons. One burns but is not rebuilt, the others go into receivership and close, and other pretend they renovate during the low season but close for lack of business. We have exceptions, of course, you just saw some when you were in Mombasa last week, so you know which ones are doing ok, but we as a sector must face up.
“Traffic in and out of Mombasa is a nightmare, traffic in and out of Nairobi especially from JKIA is a nightmare. The road to the Mara is a nightmare. So let us meet our challenges internally and gather our leaders and frankly talk about the tourism we want for the future and act on recommendations made there and let us find the funds to promote more, like Egypt and South Africa for instance. They are spending mega bucks for Egypt to recover from the revolution and South Africa has been spending on marketing since before the World Cup in 2010. If we, in Kenya, want to succeed, we must invest and invest wisely and a lot. I wish you could come over more often and talk to our associations and with KTB and share your experience, because you travel all over the region, having worked in the sector and taught in the sector, and we need such resource persons to set us on the right path.”
It is understood that Tourism Minister Dan Mwaze did meet with tourism industry representatives yesterday in Nairobi to discuss the situation and what measures government could take in mitigating the effects but only time can tell what will actually be done as opposed to what the industry wants to see done.