Is the UK government trying to kill Kenya’s tourism industry?


(Posted 28th March 2015)

Within days of the visit by UK’s Foreign Secretary to Nairobi and Kenya’s refusal to renew a troop training deal unless the UK agreed to have all troops deployed to Kenya subjected to Kenyan law, did the almost predictable backlash come down hard on Kenya’s most vulnerable economic sector, tourism.

Normally well informed sources in Nairobi claim that while an attack on a hotel in Mogadishu had sadly taken place yesterday, this could not be equated to the situation in Kenya itself and that no indication was given to the Kenyan security apparatus by the UK, or other foreign intelligence services operating in Kenya, of any imminent attack or a heightened possibility of such an event.

Still did the Foreign and Commonwealth Office yesterday once again tighten the screws on Kenya and her tourism industry, when against expectations the wordings of the existing anti-travel advisories were not only not reduced but instead made sound even worse.

Travel Advice update: Summary – the FCO now advise against all but essential travel to within 15km of the coast from the Tana River down to and including Tiwi; this area includes Mombasa Island, Moi International Airport (including transit through the airport), Malindi, Kilifi and Watamu"

This is complete and utter rubbish’ said a coast based source seen only 10 days ago while travelling the Kenya coast on a fact finding mission before adding ‘And I think there can be no doubt left now that they are using such advisories to browbeat Kenya into submission over so many contentious things. The UK government is not a friend of Kenya any longer. The people of the UK are, many are still visiting even though travel to Kenya is made very difficult with no charters operating. Travel insurance is no longer extended in the UK to people who want to come to Kenya so we are now offering such cover, either in advance or on arrival. But to include Malindi, Watamu and Kilifi, and even Tiwi at the south coast now is an abysmal failure in international relations between the UK and Kenya. No consultations have taken place at all and none of us, none of our associations were consulted or asked to comment. The UK knows very well what damage they are doing to us and still they do it. If I hear their High Commissioner once more to utter words like friendship and cooperation and all I am going to vomit. This is a deliberate act of hostility and it coincides with the upcoming Easter travel when many of their High Commission staff had booked holidays at the coast. Guess what, they will all cancel now and in their wake who knows how many more bookings we are going to lose. You just were at the coast, were you not? Would you have hosted your daughter’s wedding in Kilifi County if you were concerned about your family’s safety? Would your relatives have come to the coast if they had worries that they go home in a coffin? I know this sounds very brutal but we feel completely raped by these advisories. If you had any problems traveling the coast, please tell me, tell your readers because if you can come to the coast, if you can travel the way you described it, surely so can anyone else too without fears for their dear life?’.

Kenyan tourism stakeholders have expressed their disbelief that instead of turning down the volume of such anti-travel advisories the language just got even harsher, declaring literally the entire coast an off limit area and yet again failing to provide any proof or details what that change was based on. Introducing a 15 kilometre buffer from the coast line this even includes such places like Shimba Hills National Park or the Vipingo Ridge and it is expected that a proverbial shitstorm of outrage will come the way of the British High Commission in Nairobi and the UK government in London.

Said another source in a conversation just ended: ‘Look, we know we have some issues at the coast. The shooting of a senior police officer is a fact as are some other criminal cases. Police has to step up their game but this is not Al Shabab related. For the UK to have tightened the noose around our necks there must be other reasons and of course they will never admit to those. We in Kenya must improve security, no doubt but the UK should stand by us and not stab us constantly in the back. This is not a way to get back into Kenya’s good books with contracts and doing business. Let them not complain if such actions are not driving our government even closer into the arms of the Chinese. Personally I think it was a very bad move ahead of Easter to slap us down that hard but hey, they are in an election which has come down to do or die and they might just come up with more such rubbish if it helps them to secure more votes’.

A source from Nairobi then added: ‘Did the Americans not just also warn you in Uganda of another imminent threat? What are these guys up to? Easter is always, like Christmas, a period of increased security measures to keep people safe and sure you in Uganda continue live your life as normal. Do you have cancellations of tourists because of that? We in Kenya will probably see cancellations as of the morning. Let me know’.

Messages galore were in fact received by this correspondent from tourism stakeholders in Kenya to reiterate the recent trip experience and indeed, not one negative incident was encountered. Using Tuk Tuk’s, Boda Boda’s, taxis waved down from the curbside, public transport and private transport, visiting banks and supermarkets, foreign exchange dealers and curio sellers, was the trip, extended over nearly two weeks, safe and sound. In fact, those travel advisories notwithstanding, yes I would return in a flash again and visit the same locations now said to be unsafe, showing what utter rubbish these advisories are, not worth the paper they are printed on. Malindi, Watamu, Vipingo, Kilifi, Shanzu, Bamburi and Nyali provided a rich travel experience and recently posted articles go to show that all was well in Kenya. It is time to stand by our friends in Kenya once again, in fact stand together as a region to counter such negative publicity which stinks to heaven and can only be categorized as hostile propaganda against us all here in East Africa.

4 Responses

  1. I have recently returned from Kenya, mainly Watamu and surrounding areas, and see no reason at all for the F.O.C. warnings. For the last thirty years i have spent a month in this region and have never seen any form of political trouble. how ever i do believe
    that there is some plan a foot to destroy the tourist trade on the coast, but for the people responsible i would suggest that scrutiny should be applied to the people that maybe have a vested interest, in gaining control of the coastal region.

      1. I have been to Kilifi 3 times since our Gov advisory NOTE ADVISORY, Not BAN. Tomorrow I will be booking for my stay in Kilifi for 3 weeks. I know it will be quiet but they need visitors, and I for one will continue to enjoy my holidays there. J.Baya.