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Balala puts rogue tour firms on notice over fake packages

Najib Balala
Tourism Secretary Najib Balala. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Tourism and Wildlife ministry is investigating unlicensed tour operators defrauding hundreds of tourists wishing to visit Kenya by luring them into the country with budget deals only to take their money and leave them stranded once they arrive.

The rogue firms use fake online campaigns, complete with sweet reviews and attractive tourism packages, to lure foreigners who make advance payments before they are abandoned in Kenya once they arrive and pay the rest of the cash.

“Our attention has been drawn to media reports on defrauding of tourists, wishing to visit Magical Kenya, by unscrupulous and bogus tour agents.

“Indeed several such reports, like the ones that appeared in our local dailies this weekend, have reached our offices,” Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said yesterday.

The CS said the con artists hiding behind rogue firms have swindled hundreds of tourists from various parts of the world, threating Kenya’s image as a tourist destination.

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Mr Balala said the Tourism Regulatory Authority and the Tourism Police Unit (TPU) had picked up the cases and are investigating the incidents.

“Initial findings indicate that these rogue individuals are not licensed tour operators regulated by both the TRA or the Kenya Association of Tour Operators, but are also not registered companies under the Registrar of Companies. A large number of them have no fixed abode or offices,” Mr Balala said.

He said his ministry has also enlisted the help of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) “to apprehend these criminals and bring them to book, in accordance with our laws. Active investigations into the same are ongoing”.

Mr Balala warned potential visitors, both local and international, to be cautious as they book their safaris to Kenya online. “We encourage them to ascertain any information by contacting the TRA through its website,” he said.

Mr Balala was responding to a Sunday Nation report of a cartel in the tourism industry that has perfected the art of evading law enforcement officers by changing names, staff and tourist vans before resurfacing during high seasons to mint millions from hapless tourists visiting the country.

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