Participants of the second African Hotel Investment Conference, due to go underway tomorrow at the InterContinental Hotel in Nairobi, the venue chosen for the second year running, and the parallel running Eco and Sustainable Tourism Conference have been assured by Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, Mrs. Phyllis Kandie, that they need not fear for their safety as all precautions are in place to guarantee successful deliberations.
Following the terrorist attack on one of Nairobi’s major malls, Westgate, President Uhuru Kenyatta and CS Kandie echoed the immediate sentiments of the tourism industry in the country at large, urging foreign countries NOT to issue anti-travel advisories against Kenya, as it would only play into the intent and purpose of the terrorists, wishing to harm the country’s people and economy.
One delegate who arrived yesterday from Bangkok was already in touch with this correspondent and wrote soon after reaching his hotel: “What a disaster and a shame, but those of us who have come here for the African Hotel Investment Conference will insist on carrying on for the future of both Kenya and African tourism at this time,” a sentiment surely not lost on the host country and the organizers who will be taking heart that the spirit of defiance has by far outweighed that of runaway fear and despondency.
“I am not aware that any delegates booked for AHIF and the Eco Tourism Conference have canceled their trips. They are all professionals who want to attend their respective conferences, and the venues have been given added layers of protection. Kenya, in fact, had protection in place in hotels, resorts, restaurants, major office buildings, government installations and even shopping centers and malls before this incident.
“When Westgate was attacked, the alarm went out immediately through the chain of command, and the response was literally instant. But the very large number of attackers and their ruthless use of weapons would make it difficult to defend any target anywhere in the world. There will be a thorough review of all our emergency procedures and of the way we allow access to such places like the mall and hotels, but you are a regular visitor in Nairobi and know that not much more is possible and can be done short of deploying a platoon of soldiers.
“What I am sure of is that our government will strengthen intelligence gathering and surveillance, but as such incidents over the past decade since 9/11 show, which happened literally anywhere in the world, there is ultimately no safe place any longer with such criminals in our midst.
“Please help to get the message out that Kenya, like our neighboring countries in the EAC, is still a safe place to visit, and we sure appreciate every tourist coming to our beaches or to the parks for the solidarity they show our country,” added a Nairobi-based source late yesterday evening, after Mrs. Kandie’s appeal had been published and distributed to the media.
At this time of sorrow, Kenya needs her friends more than ever before, and every token of support will be most welcome. Karibuni Kenya does remain a reality and Hakuna Matata it still is, by and large anyway.