Tourism is in a state of crisis say Kenyan stakeholders

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH AS KTF WRITES TO TOURISM CABINET SECRETARY

(Posted 09th April 2014)

It was learned yesterday that the Kenya Tourism Federation has formally written to Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary in charge of tourism, expressing their growing concerns over the lack of action taken by the Kenyan government to launch and fund a tourism recovery marketing programme. Feedback from one source close to the ministry reported that Phyllis Kandie, Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, felt the letter was ‘stern’ with industry sources however saying it simply reflected the reality on the ground, a fact Kandie will have to face up to as opposition to the inaction by government is now growing by the day.

While Kandie is reportedly off to Dubai and London for another foreign trip, having inexplicably missed attending the most important tourism fair of the year in Berlin last month, she conveniently left the letter unanswered until her return. KTF had according to information received planned a press conference for Wednesday, April 09th but then postponed it to a later date, a development at least in part attributed to the lack of response by Kandie.

The Kenya Tourism Federation, Kenya’s tourism apex body, brings together the key tourism trade association and any reaction from them vis a vis the current crisis carries added weight, over and above the opinions voiced by the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers, the Kenya Association of Tour Operators or the Mombasa and Coast Tourism Association, all of which have in recent weeks become increasingly vocal as pressure from the grassroots grew on the association leaderships to finally speak up and go on record about just how bad the situation has grown in particular at the Kenya coast.

Some senior tourism stakeholders have already signaled that their financial situation does not at present allow them to make major financial contributions towards a tourism marketing recovery programme as they find it more and more difficult to make ends meet every month without having to lay off staff. One particular source in fact, on condition of anonymity said: ‘Government got us into this hole by not listening so it is only fair they pay for getting us back on track. We have time and again over the past 2 years pointed out what needed to be done at the time, but the Kibaki government would not listen when tourism went into decline over the Somali invasion and then the pre-election fears which were played up abroad beyond belief. When the new government came in they did also not listen and to the contrary, into a downward spin, heaped taxes on the sector which made us a lot more expensive as a destination. Tourism suffers because the right measures were not taken at the right time. They threw the baby out with the bath water and now they cry wolf. The bitter reality we are facing for months now is finally dawning on them it seems so let them cough up some serious money. But equally important, we demand to get our own ministry back because this situation we are in is absolutely not working for the tourism industry’.

Another source also waded into the fray when adding her own voice: ‘We are talking of a national crisis about the level of poaching but the state of the tourism industry is a national crisis too. This sector has carried the Kenyan economy for so long and now it is being neglected like never before. All measures this government took over their first year in office have made tourism shrink, not grow as they promised in their election manifesto. If our tourism secretary now says international tourism has declined last year by 7 percent, let them publish the statistics that we can see for ourselves. Not releasing statistics four months into the new year stinks, it suggests there is something they are hiding, something they are not telling us’.

A regular contributor from the Kenya coast then added his voice too making reference to the domestic and regional tourism promotion: ‘We need to look at the numbers of expatriates in the region which opt to fly to South Africa or to Dubai instead of coming to the Kenya coast where they need no Visa. For expatriates living in the region there should be no Visa fees when they come to Kenya. I am sure we could capture a lot more traffic that way. A family of four has to pay 200 US Dollars in Visa fees and travel agents for instance in Kampala are saying that this is money they can spend in Dubai where a mini break often costs no more than coming to the Kenya coast. We are not fully tapping the potential therefore and need to examine why that is so. Most of those expatriates by the way would not be overly worried about media reports of security incidents because they know that a lot is blown out of proportion. Our resorts are safe and if anyone can appreciate that it is the expatriate community in neighbouring countries where they also have periodic troubles, they can put it in perspective’.

It is understood that some added consultations are now taking place among tourism industry association leaders with the aim to broadly agree on the range of issues KTF will raise when the planned press conference will eventually take place. Watch this space for future updates as and when available.

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