First half arrival figures for Kenya ‘disappointing’


(Posted 08th September 2014)

The figures released in Nairobi by the national bureau of statistics make for stark reading, as it confirms a trend which the private sector vocally defended was true while at least sections of the public sector tried to play down and ‘put in perspective’ as one contact repeatedly asserted over the past few weeks when discussing the situation.

Arrivals at Kenya’s main airport, Jomo Kenyatta International, are down for the first six months of the year by over 12 percent, from last year’s 409.130 – itself already reduced from 2012 – to 358.977. Mombasa though fared worse with arrivals down by over 20 percent as a result of entire charter operations being cancelled as a result of anti travel advisories in the wake of security incidents at the Kenya coast, which saw even Lamu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, coming under travel ban from Western governments. Two tourist murders in the space of a few weeks in Mombasa’s old town added to the woes and while tourism marketers are now busy to reassure those long existing core markets, did comments by some officials that other countries would make up for the slack not go down too well overseas at the time. ‘Rosemary Mugambi stirred the hornets nest a few weeks ago when she publicly contradicted official figures given which spoke of a downturn of only 4 percent. We all knew that was not correct, so why quote such figures? The KNBS data are clear, the trend is clear, we have a very long way to go before we can recover to 2011 levels and Mombasa is a critical component to achieve that recovery. Telling us that we have for too long relied on the coast and that has to change is not the way forward. We have a lot of resorts at the coast which have closed down before or after Easter and failed to reopen until now. The job losses are undisputable and so are the losses for the hotels. Some are waiting for the receivers to come in even. Safari business from the coast has suffered also affecting the nearby parks and all the auxiliary revenues, for restaurants, curio and art dealers and so on are all way down. After the local school holidays are now over, occupancies have dropped again even at the resorts still open. Yes there are some which are doing better than others but in average the situation is alarming. We need to address those security challenges, more tourist police patrolling in tourism hotspots, more incentives for foreign tour operators and their charter airlines to come back, open skies for scheduled flights to Mombasa, remove VAT on tourism services and to be honest, shake up the political and public sector tourism players. They have let us down big time. Telling us how much money will be spent is not what the trade wants to hear, we want to know what has been transferred to KTB and what has been spent’ ranted a regular contributor from Nairobi echoing the sentiments of many others.

On the upside did the Kenya Tourism Board retain for the third year running the World Tourism Award for Best Tourism Board in Africa and Kenya as a country came second in terms of number of awards – the ceremony took place last Friday night – after South Africa, showing that the positive sides of Kenya’s tourism industry still manage to score points, points however which need translating in heads in beds once again.

Watch this space for breaking and regular news from across Eastern Africa’s tourism sectors.

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