16 May 2014

Kenya: Tourists Leave Kwale and Mombasa Hotels

Photo: Mike Kariuki/Capital FM
Bomb experts and plainclothes police officers gather at the scene of a bus explosion along the Thika super-highway in Nairobi.

Hotels in Mombasa and Kwale yesterday got a major blow after a number of tourists called short their stay at several hotels in the resort towns. More than 150 tourists, mainly UK and US nationals, cancelled their stay at the Diani Sea Resort and other hotels at the South Coast before flying to Nairobi.

In Mombasa, tourists also left hotels for Nairobi with majority reported to be leaving the country. This follows Britain and the United States warnings on Wednesday of potential terrorist attacks in Kenya. British citizens were urged to immediately leave Mombasa and its environs following a series of attacks.

According to Britain's Foreign Office, UK citizens should avoid the region unless on essential travel "following recent terrorist attacks and the continuing terrorist threat in the area."

The US Embassy also warned its citizens of the continued threats and potential terrorist attacks in the country. Tourism stakeholders have however criticised the travel advisory terming it an "economic sabotage".

Led by Mombasa and Coast Tourism Association, the hospitality and tourism traders termed the warning "unnecessary". They said Mombasa is a safe holiday destination and no tourists have been affected by previous incidences.

"It is unnecessary because Mombasa remains a safe holiday destination compared to other parts and cities of the world. The UK and US should instead share intelligence with the Kenyan government in the fight against terror instead of creating fear," said association chairman Mohammed Hersi.

With the travel ban, it means citizens or tourists travelling to Mombasa and its environment will not get insured. The warning said there was a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping.

Hersi, who is also the CEO of Heritage Hotels, said the UK and US have been hit by major terrorism attacks despite high surveillance and intelligence. "Terrorism is a global problem. As much as they are protecting their citizens, this is an economic sabotage to us. If they have credible information, they should share and curb attacks," he said.

On Wednesday, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho said crime in Mombasa has been exaggerated. He said the county and national governments are working together to tighten security at the Coast.

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers has however said the effect of the advisories will not be much as the industry is currently on the low season. Bed occupancy at most of the hotels is currently at 30 per cent both for international and domestic tourists.

KAHC executive officer Sam Ikwaye called on UK and US to reconsider their advisories. He said the warning will likely affect the ongoing bookings for high season, which begins in July. Ikwaye said Mombasa is safe.

"Boko Haram is causing havoc in Nigeria yet no advisory has been given. South Africa is equally challenged by security issues yet no advisory has been issued. Mombasa is far better that all these cities," he said.

"We appreciate that the UK and US have the responsibility to protect their citizens but they should know we have a country to treasure and live in. Kenya is safe."

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