TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS INCENSED OVER ATTEMPTS TO DIVERT THEIR BUDGET FUNDS
(Posted 19th June 2013)
‘We will not take that laying down but will use very option available to us to have this decision revisited and our funds kept where they belong, in tourism’ ranted a regular source when news broke late yesterday that the National Assembly’s Budget and Appropriation Committee had chopped a major percentage of funding off the budget of tourism in order to pay teachers a backlog of dues, which goes back to 1997.
Incensed stakeholders flooded this correspondent’s mailboxes with protests and lamentations, one of them claiming:’ Only yesterday did KTB show the data of arrivals till April this year and entries through JKIA reduced by 20 percent compared to last year. We told that fool of a minister last year that he better find the funds to embark on a serious marketing offensive ahead of the elections, but he would either not listen or simply did not understand what was going on. While he strutted about claiming 2012 would be better than 2011, the industry knew what was coming. KTB told him what was in the offing and instead of listening and acting he tried to sack the KTB CEO. KTB needs those fund to embark on a global campaign to revive our tourism fortunes. If we do not have the funds promised to us in the budget estimates submitted last week, the recovery of tourism will remain slow and sluggish. If government wants double digit economic growth, they have to put petrol in to the engines which can drive this growth, not take the engine out of the locomotive and sell it for spare parts, if you get my meaning. Those claims of the teachers go back to the Moi regime and 10 years of Kibaki’s government. Why do they want to strike now for 16 year long claims? Kenya cannot afford a teachers strike, that is true, but it can also not afford to starve tourism of funds. If they go ahead it might cripple KTB’s action plans and in a year there will be much gnashing of teeth when more bad results are revealed. Let those parliamentarians cut their own mega earnings and give to the teachers, that would be a start’.
Indeed, the year started with a further downturn in arrivals, continuing the trend of late 2012, when Kenya’s military engagement in Somalia to drive out Al Shabab militants and destroy the pirates safe havens on land resulted in a series of retaliations, mainly in areas bordering Somalia but also in Nairobi and Mombasa. Ahead of the general elections in March this year in Kenya did tour operators from abroad also scale back their presence, charter flights were thinned out and especially the coastal resorts took a hit in sharply lower occupancies across the board, with a few notable exceptions. The inaugural address of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy President William Ruto gave hope to the tourism industry that the funding allocated would permit to roll out a major recovery marketing campaign, extending from core markets in Europe to new and emerging markets in Eastern Europe, India, the Far East including China and North America. The lastest development at the National Assembly though has now dashed such hopes and dampened the mood, with anger already rising up, setting up the sector for a major confrontation with the new government. There were a few calming voices, suggesting that parliament needs to be lobbied and the budget committee be told with fact and figures how their cutting of the tourism budget could affect the national economy overall, should tourism underperform, but considering the imminent threat of strikes from teachers, MP’s may not be in the mood to listen to common sense. Hard times ahead it seems for Kenya’s tourism industry, unless the promised funds can be saved and secured in what might become a major showdown too between government and parliament over economic priorities. Watch this space for regular and breaking news and more twists in the tail of this emerging saga.