KENYA’S TOURISM INDUSTRY GURUS UNHAPPY WITH STRIKES AND STUDENT UNREST
A number of Kenya’s tourism stakeholders have over the weekend voiced their concern over the present strike by hospital staff and outright condemned the riotous behaviour of students of the University of Nairobi, which went on rampage again in the capital, stoning cars and causing widespread traffic jams.
Coming hot on the heels of the country’s Golden Jubilee Celebrations – Kenya became independent from Britain at midnight on 12th December 1963 – have the strikes and students unrest added to tourism’s woes.
Over the weekend was once again a grenade thrown at a public service vehicle in a part of Nairobi NOT frequented by tourists, but a similar attempt a few days earlier in Mombasa near the Likoni ferry crossing ramp – the grenade failed to explode when thrown at a tourist vehicle with two British tourist visitors inside – has raised the alarm levels across the board.
‘I am still tempted to discount this as a mistake by the one throwing the device but if it was intentional it would signal an escalation of targets. Should any tourist bus be hit like this, we would face enormous problems as a sector. So far we were always able to say that no tourists have come into harm’s way but this latest development has us all worried. Add to that the strike in hospitals and health centres, which only two days after the Independence party is now hitting, and the students unrest in Nairobi, it portrays our country as out of control.
Those students, do they understand what is at stake here? They are clamouring for jobs and yet with their actions on the streets destroy jobs. If such news are widely picked up, where will it end? We have good bookings for Christmas and New Year but beyond that it does not look good‘ wrote a regular source while others made similar comments on Facebook or Twitter.
Official sources maintain their optimism for Kenya’s future prospects in the tourism industry and Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie, responsible for overseeing the tourism sector, in an opinion piece over the weekend demonstrated her believe in better times ahead, a mood not entirely shared among key stakeholders.
‘I think they are in denial. We cannot reach our targets the way we planned because the downturn first has to be halted and then reversed. The coast has always been a key element in generating numbers and this year, and into early 2014, the forecasts are way below last year. I have even a source in Kenya Airways saying that the numbers look a lot lower for the coast, so let us arrest the rot first before we talk of doubling or tripling arrival numbers or reaching a 2 billion US Dollar revenue target. Talking about conference tourism is well and good but where are the conference centres in Mombasa and Kisumu? The Mombasa county government says they have no money for the conference centre so who is going to build it? I am not painting doom and gloom but for sure we need answers to our legitimate questions, not more aggrandisement and spilling hot air‘ said another source this morning when discussing the matter on the phone.
Challenges for sure which need to be met together, as an industry, to devise the right market strategy on how to recapture the lost market for the Kenya coast and diversify the product, upgrade it as far as the beach resorts are concerned and provide the right environment for airlines and overseas tour operators to start hard selling Mombasa again.
It was also learned that the Governor of Mombasa County has called for an urgent meeting this morning with all hotel and resort managers as well as other service providers, now going underway at the Severin Sea Lodge to discuss ‘prevalent security issues and the upcoming Mombasa International Cultural Festival, a sign that the powers that be understood just how sensitive the developments of the past days are and that immediate action is now required. Watch this space for further updates, as and when available.