29 August 2012

Kenya: Tourism Sector to Bear Brunt of Mombasa Unrest

Photo: Lauren Everitt/AllAfrica
Lamu island: Tourist arrivals declined by half a percent for the first quarter of 2012 following a tourist's abduction in Lamu and subsequent travel advisories issued by the United Kingdom, France and the United States.

The Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers & Caterers has warned that the tourism sector in the country could be adversely affected if the government does not act fast to quell riots in Mombasa over the murder of Muslim cleric Aboud Rogo.

The association's chairman Mike Macharia said the government should give assurance to Kenyans and the international community that calm will be restored to the holiday haven.

"You remember the other day we had chaos in London, and after a while, everyone forgot about it because the relevant agencies were in control. I am sure if our government gets more serious, our sector will be safe, "said Macharia.

So far, four people have died after riots broke out on Monday when Rogo, accused by the United States and the UN of helping al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants in Somalia, was shot dead.

Hundreds of angry youths threw stones, barricaded roads with burning tires, burnt churches and looted shops in Majengo and Kisauni.

"We need to get to the core of this issue so that we can get a complete solution. If it occurs again, it will give our country a bad reputation," Macharia emphasised.

Foreign embassies including those of Australia, Britain and France have already issued travel warnings for Mombasa, a key tourist hub and Kenya's main port.

Macharia has however called on these countries to make it clear that the crisis is not in the whole country but a section of the coast region.

"They would need to be specific. I believe everything is in control considering that we have seen several leaders go to Mombasa in the last few hours, "he said.

Macharia said most of the tourists who had made bookings may have to council until they are assured that there is complete calm.

Tourist arrivals declined by 0.5 percent for the first quarter of this year, following a tourist's abduction in Lamu towards the end of last year and subsequent travel advisories issued by some of Kenya's key source markets such as the UK and France.

The arrivals declined to 312,258 compared to 313,691 in the same period last year.

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