Minister boots Muriithi Ndegwa from KTB as stakeholders say ‘Mwazo must go’

TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS DEMAND ‘MWAZO MUST GO’ OVER KTB APPOINTMENT

Kenya’s Minister for Tourism Danson Mwazo is turning out to be as hapless as his erstwhile Tanzanian counterpart Ezekiel Maige, who fell into his own sword over constant blunders, gaffes and major scandals in his ministry earlier this year. Already depicted as a poor substitute, elevated into a cabinet position when his highly respected and globally renowned predecessor Najib Balala was fired by his party leader for telling him off over undemocratic and dictatorial behaviour, Mwazo has incurred the wrath of the tourism sector on several occasions since his appointment. He stands blamed for failing to get the industry and in particular the tourist board the funds needed at this crucial period of time to promote the country to the fullest extent abroad, is blamed for having failed the sector vis a vis attempts to load VAT on tourism services besides uttering clouded statements as to the true extent of the industry’s downturn when talking growth for 2012 while all the key data talk lesser arrivals. It is in fact thought that his latest decision taken in isolation from the industry, not to renew the contract for the KTB CEO Muriithi Ndegwa, has much to do with this, as the tourist board within days of ministerial utterances published the true figures of the downturn in arrivals, exposing Mwazo as a peddler of hot air.

The most recent nails in the minister’s coffin was the hasty cancellation of the long awaited, and for the first time ever, World Travel Awards Africa Ceremony, due to be held in Nairobi, which the organizers cancelled at the last moment after the ministry welshed on earlier commitments of sharing the cost to organize the gala night, leaving industry stakeholder flabbergasted and the country’s reputation smeared. Only weeks earlier had he blundered again when appointing new boards for a number of newly created parastatals under the new tourism act, after overlooking the fact that he had failed to cause the new law to be formally gazetted, rendering his decision null and void and resulting in legal cases being brought.

It is understood from usually reliable sources within Kenya’s tourism fraternity, that the Board of Directors of the Kenya Tourist Board had in fact recommended that Muriithi Ndegwa’s contract be renewed, showing a further alienation between the Minister and the industry representatives on the board. This is now raising speculation that there may be resignations from the board by those feeling strongly that the minister not just ignored their advice but stumped on them with a vengeance.

After the recent departure of Jennifer Opondo who served successfully as Marketing Director of KTB, the appointment of Regional Marketing Manager Europe Ms. Jacintha Nzioka-Mbithi to the position as Acting Chief Executive, not long after being made Acting Marketing Director, has left a leadership vacuum in two of the most senior positions, as Muriithi Ndegwa and Jennifer Opondo were largely credited with the overwhelming success of reaching new arrival and revenue records in 2011, before budget cuts and political events in Kenya reversed the trend for 2012 beyond their control.

The minister is, according to several regular contributors from Kenya, now widely suspected to attempt and stuff these various boards with political sympathizers of his party leader and at least one senior source has already indicated that legal cases may be brought if even the slightest whiff of such improprieties emerges in the appointments. ‘The day that fellow is out of office cannot come soon enough. He understands zero about tourism and how our industry works and we miss Balala every day, he was a champion of the tourism industry and this mess is becoming intolerable. I know there is not likely to be a change before the elections for political expediency but really, he is not fit to lead our sector as a minister. And imagine, we are soon heading for WTM and these divisions are now all out in the open. Very bad timing, very bad decision by a very bad minister’ ranted one rather outspoken source before hastily adding ‘just don’t give my name or he will have my head for it’.

That all said, all the best to Miss Jacintha who now has a very large pair of shoes to fill and inspire the KTB staff to find new motivation and determination in promoting Kenya as WTM is now only 1 ½ weeks away. Watch this space.

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