GIVE TOURISM A BREAK DEMAND STAKEHOLDERS
(Posted 27th September 2013)
What are presently just murmurs may yet grow into a mighty chorus, as tourism stakeholders are now taking stock of the impact of the Westgate attack last weekend, trying to evaluate the fallout as it gradually becomes more evident to them. While officials put a brave face to the situation, it is their job after all to be professionally upbeat, private sector stakeholders are now beginning to formulate proposals of how best the sector can be assisted to swiftly turn the flagging fortunes of in particular coast tourism around.
A leading tourism guru, with decades of industry experience under his belt, in several emails and phone calls today with this correspondent began to toss ideas around what could realistically be done on the fast track and in the short and medium term: ‘In 2008 we faced the situation together. Government reduced Visa fees to 25 US Dollars and perhaps now is the time to think along similar lines. We could limit this special offer till end year when the new tripartite regional tourist Visa comes into effect with Uganda and Rwanda. We could make Kenya userfriendly for families to come to our beaches by giving kids up to 14 a no Visa fee offer. We could waive Visa fees for expatriates from within the EAC so that they can be enticed to spend a holiday or a long weekend at the coast. We should talk to Air Uganda and RwandAir to put special packages on the market for our beach resorts.
VAT on tourism services should be revisited immediately to reduce the cost burden for tourists even further.
Airlines like Qatar Airways should be invited to sit with us and tell us what it takes for them to fly to Mombasa. There perhaps a time limited offer to other airlines with reduced navigation, landing and parking fees could help to have them review their commitment to fly to the coast. Kenya Airways should start think triangular flights from key places to touch down in Mombasa too. We need to look at every option we can find to make sure tourism gets a shot in the arm. And let me not forget, government, as you put it so aptly the other day, should write a big enough cheque for KTB to give them the required funds to blitz the entire world. WTM is not long away, the World Travel Award ceremony for Africa will be held in Nairobi in October so there are key events happening which we can use to really show flag. Some of my colleagues from Nairobi are now starting to see cancellations and drops in occupancy levels. What we have seen at the coast may extend to Nairobi and the parks too. I urge my fellow colleagues to ask government and KTB to come together for a national dialogue on the way forward. We in Kenya have faced challenges in the past, like in 2008. We overcame these trying times. Kenya Airways and the private sector organized at the time the biggest mega fam trip ever with journalists and travel agents from all over Africa coming to Kenya. We can do that again. The shoulder season has enough space in beach resorts and the lodges to bring travel journalists from all over the world to Kenya, invite the key tour operators and travel agents. I am sure other airlines will give free tickets for that purpose because if their load factors go down, they also lose. I see opportunities now to set a process of a vigorous campaign abroad into motion and now is the time to tell our government what the sector needs and that we need it NOW’ did the source say over several phone conversations spanning from mid afternoon until a short while ago.
Other industry stakeholders have indicated that latest by the time of the Magical Kenya Expo in October they think measures should have been agreed on to use that platform to announce a series of major activities aimed to revive the fortunes of Kenya’s tourism industry and help reach the goals set by government vis a vis arrival numbers and revenues. ‘Remember our President and Deputy President have set a high target with double digit economic growth in Kenya during their first term of office. If tourism does not perform, this will drag everything else down with it. Kickstart tourism and you will kickstart the entire economy’ wrote another source when exploring opinions among regular contacts. Watch this space to find out what exactly will be done and how this will unfold in coming weeks. Meanwhile visit www.magicalkenya.com for information about Kenya’s attractions on this World Tourism Day.