NOW THE UN DUMPS ON MOMBASA TOO
Within months of the US Embassy declaring a hasty if not cowardly and ultimately withdrawn travel embargo on Kenya’s Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa, has now the UN done the same to the outrage of Kenya’s political leadership and –not surprisingly here – the coastal tourism fraternity.
The UN’s offices in Nairobi have reportedly told their staff NOT to travel to the coast, not on business and supposedly not for vacation time too, leaving coast tourism sources exasperated to say the least. In fact a source in Nairobi claims that travel to the entire coast region, including the resorts in Diani and along the stretch of beaches from Kilifi via Watamu to Malindi is included in the anti travel advice issued by the UN to their staff which prompted a regular coast source to rant: ‘Whatever has Kenya done to them but given them hospitality and friendship. Is this payback because Koffi has not been able to have tea at State House? I bet there is a connection somewhere because what other reason could they have. Security at the coast is tight and ahead of a long weekend in Kenya this is bad for business for us and for the airlines too because UN staff and their families often come to the coast for long weekends. I think it is disrespectful of their host country Kenya and either a panic reaction or else something of a hidden agenda and personally I do not put it beyond Koffi to vent his anger like that. Do they warn people not to go to the parks because they could be eaten by a lion or not drive a car in Kenya because there might be an accident? This is simply wrong’.
While such an explanation, linking Koffi Annan’s recent presence in Nairobi and his inability to secure a meeting with President Kibaki is of course is most unlikely to hold water, it nevertheless reflects the growing frustration by coast tourism stakeholders with foreign embassies and missions making public declarations where their staff should not go, in the process creating negative publicity which is regularly being picked up by global media then blowing it even further out of proportion.
Coast tourism has according to figures released by the Kenya Tourist Board, covering the January to August period, declined by over 20 percent, with the months of July and August in fact way higher than the average figure, and while Kenya has in the past managed to deal with anti travel advisories from abroad, having such sprung on them from within is still novel but thought to cause even more damage as it directly prevents a main target group for domestic travel from actually visiting the coastal resorts.
Watch this space to see how this will play out in coming days and if this ill-considered if not outright offensive anti travel advisory will be withdrawn soon.