Attacks to hurt tourism, warn sector players
Posted Tuesday, May 29 2012 at 20:28
A day after an explosion rocked the heart of Nairobi city, tourism industry players have warned that the attack could reduce the number of visitors but they also assured source markets of tighter security.
The Kenya Tourist Board and hoteliers were unanimous that the explosion, whose origin is yet to be known, had the potential of causing cancellations “in the short-term.”
On Tuesday, the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers CEO Mike Macharia said “there might be reduced numbers in the short term, but not necessarily in the long-term.”
KTB managing director Muriithi Ndegwa said they were reassuring the source markets of safety “but there might be a few cancellations.” He added the numbers will pick up.
On Monday, the UK government issued a new travel alert, advising its people “against all but essential travel to low income areas of Nairobi, including all township or slum areas, which experience high crime levels,” it said.
During a stakeholder conference in Nairobi Tuesday, minister for Tourism Danson Mwazo termed the attacks a sabotage of the country’s economy but said the challenges would be overcome if the Egyptian experience was anything to go by.
“Security is a challenge but we also need to improve our branding. Countries like Egypt, even with the political unrest are still recording high tourist numbers,” he said.
The new threats to the sector come just after the industry reported reduced visitor numbers in the first quarter of the year to 312,258 from 313,691 in a similar period last year.
Apart from the Monday explosion on Moi Avenue, other blasts, linked to Al-Shabaab, have been reported in North Eastern, Nairobi and the Coast regions. Kenya pursued the militia group into Somalia and the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) has since been made part of the African Union mission in Somalia.
“I urge all Kenyans to volunteer information to security officials on any suspicious characters in order to curb the vice,’’ Mr Mwazo said.
Mr Macharia called on the government to avoid issuing conflicting statements on security issues.
After the Monday blast, Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere and Prime Minister Raila Odinga issued divergent explanations on the explosion that left tens of people injured.
Mr Iteere initially attributed the blast to an electric fault and ruled out “conventional” bomb or grenade while Mr Odinga linked it to terrorism.