13 January 2013

Kenya: What's the Way Forward for Tourism?

Nairobi — It could be another turbulent year for the Kenyan tourism industry as all indications point to a dip in arrivals and bed occupancy.

A number of factors have conspired in a situation that could seriously hurt one of the most flourishing tourism sectors in the world.

The constant threat of terrorism that seriously affected the sector last year has not eased with grenade hurling youths constantly engaging police in running battles and overnight patrols.

Youth suspected to be working in cahoots with Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab are wrecking untold havoc in several part of Kenya. Of most concern is the fact that most of these terrorism activities are concentrated at the tourism city of Mombasa.

Last year, the sector, as expected, registered a dip in earnings bringing in $894 million down from the $1 billion it registered the previous year.

"This was a tough year for tourism in Kenya as a number of factors unfavorable to the sector came into play. We however expect a buoyant 2013 despite the electioneering process," said Tourism Minister Dan Mwazo.

The general election which is only two months away is another big concern for the sector. Events of the previous election that saw violence rock the country bringing Kenya to a near precipice are still lingering fresh in the minds of tourists. Reports point to a current low bed occupancy and reduced booking in the first quarter as most visitors wait in apprehension to see which direction the elections take.

President Mwai Kibaki has however moved to assure players in the sector and tourists that the elections will be peaceful, free and fair. He encouraged tourists to visit Kenya and even be part of the electioneering period as observers.

"All measures are in place to ensure a peaceful, free, fair and transparent general election. We are adequately prepared and the security apparatus are on call to ensure that no unruly behavior disrupts this important process," said the President while officially opening another five star hotel owned and managed by the Kenya Red Cross.

Also on the tourism sector worry list are the tribal flare-ups pitting parts of the coast province. clashes allegedly fanned by rival political groups and tribes have hit parts of Tana River County with an estimated 150 people killed and millions destroyed in property. Past government interventions have failed to bear fruit with an increased contingent of security personnel sent to the area. Tana River is in the Coast region which also hosts Mombasa, Malindi and other tourism hotspots.

The sector is heavily counting on a peaceful election, reduced terrorism cases and an end to ethnic clashes if it is to have a productive 2013.

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