SACK MWAZO TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS DEMAND
Kenya’s tourism industry, at the eve of the crucially important start of the World Travel Market in London, is in uproar and turmoil over the ongoing saga of the position of CEO of the Kenya Tourism Board.
First sacked by hapless tourism minister Danson Mwazo, now described by many as the fifth column introduced by his party chairman to destroy the sector ahead of the next general election in March next year, then reinstated by the Head of Civil Service with the apparent blessing by State House and then sacked again when Mwazo returned after playing tourist himself with a trip to Mexico, the uncertainty is ripping right through the sector at a time when it should stand united.
The downturn in tourism fortunes this year, a fact persistently denied by Mwazo in the face of statistics speaking a different language, is at least in part laid at his doorstep for his failure to fight for a larger budget allocation, and a series of other blunders in recent months which exposed the minister in the words of one outraged stakeholder as ‘a fraud’. Dozens of mails in recent days from many leading stakeholders, with only one dissenting view, now demand action from President Kibaki to save the tourism sector, which has suffered setback after setback with airlines withdrawing from Mombasa and Nairobi, or else halting plans to fly to Kenya as previously announced, and international media reports, often false by the way, about the security situation at the Kenya coast in particular have impacted severely on the sectoral performance. Jitters over possible pre- and post election violence too have had overseas tour operators cautiously making contingency plans, leaving their local counterparts in hotels and lodges, as well as their DMC’s scratching their heads how to build confidence, only to see the KTB saga tear right through the fabric of a united industry.
‘It seems clear now that this minister has a hidden agenda and it is not for the good of the sector, not for the good of the country. We suspect he is trying to stuff boards under his ministry with party loyalists and this must stop before it even begins. We hope the President realizes what damage is done under his nose and puts an end to it. The man is a liability for the tourism industry now. In what world does he live?’ asked a particularly outspoken contributor while other mails reflected, at times in softer and at times in harsher words the same sentiments. Others suggested the matter might well be taken to court to challenge the ministerial action while Ndegwa, with a valid renewal contract in his hands after being re-appointed last week, may well be looking at a major compensation package should his dismissal be upheld by the powers that be – and Mwazo isn’t one of them – or else by a court ruling, where the matter appears to be heading for.
Kenya’s delegation to WTM meanwhile is led by Acting CEO Jacintha Nzioka, who however is reportedly already feeling the icy atmosphere from sections of the participants, who consider her as the minister’s puppet, raising doubts on a unified performance as under Ndegwa, whose leadership got KTB the recognition as Africa’s best tourism board at the recent World Travel Awards announcements.
Time for sure will tell but for now the signs are suggesting stormy days and weeks ahead. Watch this space as surely more twists in the tail of this saga will emerge.