KENYA’S TOURISM GURUS RELIEVED OVER SUPREME COURT RULING
Kenya’s tourism industry was swift to welcome the decision of the Supreme Court, which delivered the verdict of ‘Validly elected’ while turning down the applications of the petitioners to overturn the declaration of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which had named Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto as President Elect and Deputy President Elect respectively.
The Chairman of the Mombasa and Coast Tourism Association Mohammed Hersi, also General Manager Coast for Sarova Hotels, wrapped the sentiments in one tweet when he said: ‘@UKenyatta & @WilliamsRuto Please now take time to unite Kenyans, reach out to @RailaOdinga . God Bless Kenya.’
The suspense over the March 04th election outcome, and overt and covert prediction by sections of the Western media that trouble would erupt in Kenya before, during and after the elections, had kept tourism arrivals depressed, made worse by the lamentable anti travel advisories handed down last week to US and UK residents in Kenya by their embassies, leaving Easter bed occupancies in some resorts and safari lodges less than half compared to last year. A regular source, preferring not to be named, sent this mail in from Nairobi a short while ago, saying: ‘I voted for the losing side because that was my choice. I also felt that the petition was ill advised. It kept the country in political and economic suspense. Our occupancies are terrible right now, so I am happy that the whole thing is now over. Uhuru was in KTB as chairman before and will know what tourism means to Kenya. We need a good government in place because the last one disappointed in so many areas. Our country has a big, a very big potential. Besides tourism now we found oil. That should help finance roads, highways, bridges, bypasses and also education and health programmes. My priority is that KTB get enough money to be at every major tourism trade show and is able to work our emerging markets with road shows. I want to see our wildlife act amended immediately to hand poachers long sentences and high financial fines. For now I am just happy for my country how we handled our elections. Kenyans have matured. Tourism can now kickstart again. As a nation we can work together to solve the many problems we have’ while another source from Mombasa added ‘We need to get heads into beds now. This whole thing lasted too long and spoiled our Easter holiday business. But let me tell you, we have seen worse and we will make up for it. 2013 had 9 months left and at the end of the year I am confident we will show some good results for tourism’.
Comments from across the region also signaled relief and satisfaction that Kenya was spared a runoff election or a repeat election and that trade and travel could now resume fully as the focus was now turning back to business, leaving the politics behind for a while. In Uganda one could almost hear a collective sigh as the country as a whole exhaled after the Supreme Court of Kenya announced their decision, as 90 percent of the imports and exports are depending on functioning road and rail links between Kampala and the Kenyan port city of Mombasa. ‘We felt that there were less tourists in Kenya this time of year because much fewer came for add on safaris to Uganda, compared to Easter last year and the previous month. It is good this is over now so that we can get back to business. As a region we have learned a lesson, that what happens in one country of the East African Community affects all the others equally. We hope that the new Kenya they are talking about will be a friend and good partner with us in Uganda and our other colleagues in the region’ said a Kampala based senior tourism stakeholder when asked to comment.
Expectations no doubt are now high across Kenya, especially within the tourism industry, that the focus of the new government will be on business and how to nurture it, though the challenges are also written on the wall. The new devolved system of government which this election brought into being, will consume a staggering 80 percent of the revenues generated by government and it will take a skilled act on the financial high wire to finance the programmes announced by the Jubilee coalition which won them the elections.
Congratulations to both winners and loser of the elections in Kenya, with the hope that ‘like fathers like sons’ will this time see a different outcome, not like Kenyatta and Odinga seniors (RIP) being replayed but in the spirit of building a new Kenya, together, where One Kenya, One Tribe will be the motive and driver behind development, resource allocation and regional balance. And as the saying goes, watch this space.