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Economy

Kenya spared tourism blow from travel alerts after attack

Security officers arrive at 14 Riverside Drive
Security officers arrive at 14 Riverside Drive to combat suspected terrorists on Tuesday. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG 

United States and the United Kingdom have spared Kenya’s tourism fresh travel advisories to their citizens after terrorists attacked the mixed-use business complex, 14 Riverside, leaving at least 14 people dead and dozens injured.

The US state department did not restrict its nationals from Kenya travel, but cautioned them to be vigilant in Nairobi.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of Britain has a similar alert, but said its citizens were free to visit Kenya’s safari destinations in the national parks, reserves and wildlife conservancies as well as beach resorts.

State House said that 14 civilians, including an American and a Briton, were confirmed dead and over 700 others had been evacuated to safety by security forces.

“The area to which the FCO advise against all but essential travel doesn’t include Kenya’s safari destinations in the national parks, reserves and wildlife conservancies … nor does it include the beach resorts of Mombasa, Malindi, Kilifi, Watamu, Diani, Lamu Island and Manda Island,” said UK authorities.

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The 20-hour siege at 14 Riverside echoed a 2013 assault that killed 67 people in Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre in the same neighbourhood.

The 2013 attack prompted foreign countries led by the US and UK to issue travel advisories that cut travel and hurt tourism.

The alerts reduced the flow of tourist dollars, a valuable source of foreign exchange, put pressure on the shilling and forced some hotels out of business.

The industry has since recovered following improved security and aggressive marketing in foreign capitals.

Earnings dropped from Sh94 billion in 2013 to Sh84.6 billion a year later following the Westgate attack and rose to Sh157 billion last year from Sh120 billion in 2017, representing a 37 percent growth — which is the biggest jump in more than a decade.

The 14 Riverside attack was claimed by Somali group al Shabaab, which is fighting to topple the UN-backed government and is against Kenyan military stay in the country.

The complex is home to offices of international companies including Colgate Palmolive, Reckitt Benckiser, Pernod Ricard, Dow Chemical and SAP, as well as the dusitD2 hotel, part of Thai group Dusit Thani.

The attacks was designed to shake the foreign capitals, where Kenya draws the bulk of the high spending tourists.

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