Britain’s latest travel advisory

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office added to the severity of anti-travel advisories for British visitors to Kenya today by adding a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Britain’s latest travel advisory

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office added to the severity of anti-travel advisories for British visitors to Kenya today by adding a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Reacting to recent attacks in the wider Lamu county which resulted in dozens of deaths, they are now including Lamu itself to areas now declared as off limits. Lamu is the location for a new harbor and launch point for the new LAPSSET links by road, rail, and pipeline to South Sudan and Ethiopia, is connected with daily flights from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport to allow tourists easy access to the remote town where visitors regularly feel like stepping back in time.

“Truth told, those attacks exposed Kenya as a country weak on intelligence gathering and weaker even on the ability to prevent such an attack, or fight them off. It played into the hands of Britain and others which promptly saw their anti-travel advisories as entirely justified. And when our government then denied the involvement of Al Shabab, we heard very harsh comments in what world these guys live. For me it is no surprise that Britain now included Lamu as well, because in all honesty, who can we trust our government to keep us safe when they failed so much over the past weeks?” asked a regular coast-based source while others poked fun at their own government for warning Kenyans not to travel via London Heathrow for fear of an attack there.

Said another source: “How much worse can our government make itself look? To issue a travel-advisory against Heathrow? Does anyone even listen to that other than newspapers making it into headlines? What is suffering is our tourism industry and the latest British move to include Lamu in their list takes us back to the days when the abductions took place. They say no one should travel there unless on essential travel, and tourism is not essential. They let their ‘journos’ go there and perhaps their intelligence gatherers or a well-protected official from the embassy or the FCO to see for themselves, but that is it. If our government calls it an unfriendly act, they should ask what prompted it in the first place. It will take months if not longer to recover from such negative publicity no matter what we do abroad. Google Kenya today and those bad things stare you in the face.”

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Meanwhile occupancies at the Kenya coast during the low season months between April and the end of June have been described as the lowest in the recent past apart from the 2008 post-election period, and forecasts for July and August are not much better according to coast hotel sources. Domestic travel is expected to make up for some of the percentage losses but at lower rates and will still leave plenty of beds empty. More intense tourism marketing is also reportedly hampered by the promised funds not yet with the Kenya Tourism Board, giving the organization added challenges beyond just trying to put on a brave face and up-talking the destination. A confidential report on the present situation in Kenya by one of the leading security companies, seen in part by this correspondent, has also outlined a range of challenges, not just for the tourism sector but for Kenyans also and is not painting a rosy picture.

“Our problems are many, for us who live here and for tourists who are warned not to come here. We need some serious soul searching and an open and candid dialogue with government to find solutions. We should be beyond the blame game now, beyond using nice phrases and diplomatic language. We know where this government has failed the tourism sector and continues to fail us. But we cannot be stuck in time. We need to find a way out of this situation and can only hope that for once government listens. Tourism and wildlife conservation are two main crunch areas and the poaching last week of 4 rhinos show that we have a long way to go to deal with that crisis. At the same time we have a tourism crisis. But what we can’t do is give up because our life’s work has gone into the tourism industry. When I speak up I know that I can no longer worry about stepping on toes or making enemies. Those who are offended by straight talk should remember we all sit in the same boat. Kenya has gone through a lot in the past and always come out a winner. This time will be no different, only the time it takes will be much longer,” added a Nairobi-based source yesterday, showing that the problems have been identified and that there remains a serious fighting spirit among the stakeholders not ready to give up on their industry. For now though, Britain has again turned the heat on Kenya, and it remains to be seen when these immensely harsh anti-travel advisories will be toned down.

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