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Kenya Business News

Al-Shabaab, Kidnappings and political Insecurity threaten Kenya’s Tourism

Kenya’s  Ministry of Tourism and the Kenya Tourist Board released statistics indicating a 0.5 per cent drop in the first quarter of 2012. The stats show a dip of 3.2% and 2.2% for the months of January and March respectively, However, there was  a rise of 4.3% in the month of February.

The Minister for Tourism, Mr.Dan Mwazo, attributed the decline to a set back brought about by  terror threats on the Lamu Archipelago towards the end of last year and  travel advisories issued by some of Kenya’s key source markets such as the UK and France. The kidnappings of Briton Judith Tebbutt and France’s Marie Dedieu by Al-Shabaab  as well as the murder of Judith Tebbutt’s husband David  in a luxury resort on Kenya”s Indian Ocean resulted in several countries, including Britain and the US, issuing travel advisory warnings to their citizens not to visit parts of Kenya that are close to Somalia.   These restrictions dealt a severe blow to a tourism industry that just a year before was basking in renewed interest after the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton in a rustic lodge near Mount Kenya.

Security threats are just one of several factors dampening tourism.  Kenya is due to hold presidential elections within 12 months and these will be the first polls since the disputed 2007 ballot which claimed the lives of around 1,200 people. There is already an indication of uncertainty due to the new political game – that reduces the attraction to presidency for the resources it doled to the loyalists and sycophants. Many commentators have argued that the 2012/3 presidential election is likely to be historic in creating a significant transformation in the country’s political landscape . These are some major factors that are expected to hurt the tourism sector.

The United Kingdom continued to account for the majority of tourist arrivals into Kenya, followed by United States, Italy, Germany and India which recorded a 15% growth in tourist arrivals between January and March. France was edged out of the list of the top five source markets. The number of visitors from China and other non-traditional markets has been rising, but  these could not replace traditional markets.

To resolve the decline, Kenya Tourist Board has diversified its tourism products menu with the aim of giving tourists a reason to return, which may in turn increase confidence among prospective holiday makers and adventure travelers. “Kenya has made a name as the prime beach and safari destination. In our marketing campaigns we are also positioning the country as a top destination in sports, culture, and adventure tourism, among many other propositions”Kenya Tourist Board Managing Director Muriithi Ndegwa said.

The tourist industry in Kenya is the 2nd largest source of foreign exchange revenue followed by agriculture.

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