Shipping & Logistics

Tourism thrives at the Coast despite jitters over polls

Tourists enjoy a boat ride near Lamu Island. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Tourists enjoy a boat ride near Lamu Island. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya’s tourism industry had two positive things going for it in the last one week despite jitters over elections.

First, the decision by the Opposition Nasa to seek legal redress at the Supreme Court has significantly reduced political tension. Second, the travel advisory issued by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) does not include Safari destinations and beach resorts at the Coast.

The FCO had on August 13 updated its travel advice against Kenya, citing protests that had erupted in a number of areas following the disputed presidential election results.

The hoteliers quickly took note of the bright spots. The key magnet for tourists: the national parks, game reserves and wildlife conservancies as well as coastal resort towns were not covered by the warning.

The hoteliers noted that the FCO warning affects part of Lamu County — where the Kenya Defence Forces is currently leading an air campaign against Somali-based Al-Shabaab terrorists — but excludes its islands including Manda which foreign visitors flock to. Mr Sam Ikwaye, the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast Branch Executive Officer, says the travel advice will not deter British holidaymakers from visiting Kenya in the remaining part of the year.

Mr Ikwaye said the UK is a key market for Kenya with tourists flocking to our beaches, parks, and wildlife conservancies.

Since security has significantly improved at the coast, the KAHC official called on operators of chartered airlines in the UK to resume flights to Mombasa to boast tourist arrivals.

Charter airlines from the UK market pulled out of the Mombasa route in 2014 over security concerns. “That all tourist hotspots in the country are not affected by the UK travel advice is a major indicator that the country is safe for holidays,” Mr Ikwaye said.

In Lamu, county tourism director Ali Ahmed applauded the UK for excluding Lamu and Manda islands from the travel advisory. Previously, he said, UK advisories included the Lamu archipelago impacting negatively on tourism.

Following peaceful elections, Mr Ahmed said more local and international tourists were expected to visit the archipelago.

“It is worth noting that the entire Lamu County remained peaceful during and after the General Election, bringing hope to efforts by the government to revive tourism on the archipelago,” he said.

Lamu is expected to receive more international tourists from the UK, France, Spain, Germany and Scandinavian countries, he said.