The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Tourist Numbers Remain Low As High Season Kicks in, Say Hotelkeepers

Despite the start of the high tourism season, the number of visitors to the Coast remains low, tourism players said yesterday. They said the high season starts mid-July but bookings remain low in most hotels. Kenya Association of HotelKeepers and Caterers executive director Sam Ikwaye blamed the travel advisories by the UK government and insecurity at the Coast.

Speaking to the Star on the phone yesterday, Ikwaye said tourism has suffered a major blow this year. "We are optimistic that things will change with time. We are capitalising on local tourism because in August many schools close and parents come to Mombasa for holidays," he said.

Ikwaye said the Mombasa Cultural International Festival will be used to lure many more regional and local tourists. Tui Travel, one of UK's biggest travel companies, pulled out of the Kenya market and evacuated all its clients from the Coast in May, after the advisories.

It is however expected to resume operations in October if security problems are solved and tourists are assured of their safety while in Kenya. KAHK said they have to capitalise on local tourism since a big number of foreigners is only expected into the country by next year.

Kenya Coast Tourist Association chief executive officer Millicent Odhiambo said they hope for the best despite losing inter- national tourists. She said some European countries like Italy and Germany still have confidence in Kenya. "Italians and Germans are still flooking to the country because they still believe in Kenya," she said.

The bed occupancy in many hotels in the region at the moment ranges between 30 and 40 per cent, which should be much higher during this time of the year.

Odhiambo said almost all hotels are recording poor international bookings. She said the country should have started receiving international charter planes with tourists by now.

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