Kenya tourism stakeholders accuse foreign minister of hidden agenda


(eTN) Following reports last week that tourism stakeholders in Kenya had taken issue with the incomprehensible statements made by Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula, where he displayed a stark lack of knowledge about how tourism works, they have now vowed to oppose any plans hatched by the foreign ministry to raise visa fees in an underhanded fashion and to advance their own agenda.

Some sources, including very senior stakeholders in the sector, have openly said “irrational decisions should not be made without considering that the destination is still to fully recover,” referring to past years when the global economic and financial crisis and the post election violence of early 2008 wrecked arrival forecasts and threw the industry into turmoil. Other sources quoted several countries competing with Kenya, which allowed tourists into their countries free of charge or charged less than what Kenya demands for a visa, while yet others said “let (foreign minister) Wetangula not solve his budget problems and ambitions at the expense of the tourism sector.”

The minister had incurred the wrath of tourism leaders when unjustifiably calling the country a “cheap destination” and that halving the visa charges last year as part of a recovery package “had lowered international esteem for Kenya” and then reportedly needed to be talked to by his cabinet colleague from the tourism ministry to avoid further such lapses of judgement and making more such damaging and inflaming statements.

Kenya expects record arrivals this year and is looking at earnings in excess of US$1 billion from the tourism industry, and captains of industry are loathing the idea that the recovery could be threatened and the hard-earned progress in bringing Kenya back to “preferred destination status” be halted or reversed.