ELECTION JITTERS COST KENYA’S TOURISM DEARLY
(Posted 18th June 2013)
Figures have just become available, showing the widely expected drop in tourism arrivals between January and April this year, largely attributed to the oftentimes grotesque if not outright venemous anti travel advisories issued by certain countries, which were known to have an added agenda vis a vis one pair of candidates standing for presidential election.
Some embassies and High Commissions in fact almost deliberately wrecked the Easter weekend for Kenya’s beach resorts and safari lodges, when they put out a wildfire alert days ahead of the Easter holiday weekend, literally banning their citizens from leaving home, purportedly for their own security.
As everyone knows now, Kenya’s elections were conducted in a reasonably free and fair manner and remained largely free of violent incidents, apart from a handful, swiftly dealt with by security organs, who reigned in both supporters gone wild in celebrations or wild with grief for their candidates defeat.
The Kenya Tourism Board has given out these statistical figures only yesterday, which show a drop in arrivals through Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International airport from last year’s 310.072 between January and April to this year’s 248.296 or a drop of about 20 percent overall. The picture in Mombasa is slightly better in percentage terms with a 6.5 percent decline for the first four months of the year, from 2012’s 80.226 to this year’s 75.066 visitors. It should be remembered though that the start of 2012 was unfolding strong before the events of September last year, ahead of Kenya’s military entry into Somalia to fight the Al Shabab terror menace, took place.
Tourism stakeholders have however expressed their confidence that for the remainder of the year the outlook is much brighter, partly as a result of Mombasa bound charters being re-started and partly for better economic circumstances in key producer markets of Europe. Asian and African markets have remained strong throughout and shown in fact remarkable growth, making up for some of the losses in arrivals from the more traditional market places. The new government of President Uhuru Kenyatta has also proclaimed tourism as one of the key elements in their programme to achieve double digit economic growth and the sector was during the recent budget presentation given more funds, rather than less as was the case last year, when in fact higher marketing spending could have cushioned the drop in numbers considerably. One regular source, in his own words still digesting the numbers, only commented ‘oh well it could have been a lot worse’ but was not ready to comment in greater detail as ‘we are also still evaluating the impact of the budget proposals last week, so give us a bit of time’.
Fair enough that request is, but a general consensus has started to emerge, that the worst of 2013 is behind the sector and the future appears much brighter once again. Watch this space for regular and breaking news from East Africa’s tourism sectors.