Kenya’s tourism sector expects the country’s battered industry to fully recover in eight months’ time.
Following Britain’s travel update on Thursday lifting the warning to several parts of Kenya’s coastal region, the tourism private sector under its umbrella body Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) now expects the industry to recover by February 2016.
(READ MORE: Britain removes Mombasa from Kenya travel warning)
“KTF welcomes the updated FCO Travel Advice for Kenya, which has removed the advice against ‘all but essential travel’ to parts of Kenya,” KTF, CEO Agatha Juma said during a press conference in relation to the state of the tourism sector.
In May 2014, UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth office (FCO) - a department of the United Kingdom government is responsible for protecting and promoting UK interests worldwide - advised against all but essential travel to Kenya due to the spate of terror threats and attacks in the country.
The foreign office advised its citizens to avoid travelling to several parts of the country’s Indian Ocean coastline, Eastleigh- an estate predominantly inhabited by Somali Kenyans in Nairobi and areas within 60 kilometres of the Kenya-Somalia border, which have experienced a spate of small-scale grenade, bomb and armed attacks in these areas.
As a result of the advisory, hundreds of British tourists were evacuated on chartered flights from the Coastal region.
“The amendment of the FCO advisory comes as a most welcome relief for Coastal tourism and is viewed as a direct reflection of the gains made to improve the safety and security in that region,” Juma said.
Earlier restrictions on travel to the coastal city of Mombasa – an area predominantly visited by tourists – and its environs, as well as other coastal towns like Malindi, Watamu and Kilifi have been lifted.
“This much awaited Update should not, however, cause the stakeholders at the Coast to rest on their laurels. There is still need to remain just as vigilant as ever in order to safeguard the gains made,” Juma advised.
Moreover, the private sector has asked other countries that have issued travel advisories to Kenya to follow Britain’s move and ease their stern about the East African country. The number of arrivals to the country has fallen by more than 60 per cent from 2011. Furthermore, the sector recorded a 25 per cent plunge in arrivals in the first five months of 2015.
Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) has also welcomed the move by Britain, “The South coast has always remained open to the UK travelers but lifting this travel ban to the north means that UK tourists can now enjoy the larger coastal area including one of the top beaches Watamu.”
Muriithi Ndegwa, MD of Kenya Tourism Board commented, "We are delighted with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's decision to lift their travel advice for Kenya's coast from Watamu to Diani as announced yesterday. While our operators have continued to send their guests to the southern areas of the coast including Diani, Wasini and Msambweni we look forward to welcoming guests back to Mombasa and the beautiful coastline of Watamu and Kilifi.”
Meanwhile, the government has allocated 5.2 billion Kenyan shillings from the previous 7.1 billion Kenya shillings intended to revive the sector. Nevertheless, the tourism privates sector intends to use these funds to ensure the industry returns to be the country’s jewel.
“This is the biggest allocation that has ever been given to tourism. It is a clear indication that the government now appreciates the impact of the downturn of the sector on the entire economy,” Juma explained.