| The work to make Safari Patrol ready for launch is underway, and planned
to be completed in half a year. The obvious topic of this first editorial would
of course have been introducing the new web site that is being created and its
ambitions. But that topic will have to wait. |
for the Kenyan economy
| || |
| Kenya is going through a rough time right now. The December 2007 elections
led to violence, and 700 people, maybe more, have already lost their lives. Right
now, in the middle of January, the unrest has still not ceased, and no one knows
how it all will end. |
For the Kenyan tourist industry, the news reports of
violence have led to an instant and drastic decrease in tourism. Kenyan news already
report of empty hotels that would normally, during this time of year, be close
to full. They report of large-scale lay-offs in the tourist industry, of empty
beaches on the coast, and of business coming close to a halt.
Safari guide Henrik Hult
on the unrest in Kenya
The Kenyan Minister for tourism and wildlife wrote
"Tourism plays a very important role in Kenyan economy. As
the leading foreign exchange earner for the country, it accounts for 13.3% of
Gross Domestic Product, 14.7% of foreign exchange earnings and generates 138,000
jobs directly and 360,000 jobs indirectly. As a sector, its multiplier effect
to the other sectors of the economy like transport, industry, agriculture cannot
Kenya is a developing country. It has been doing
quite well, and tourism has kept growing and growing. But the images associated
with this holiday destination have quickly changed from elephants, lions and long
white beaches to angry men with machetes.
So the present tourist season,
going on into March, is lost. The governments of many countries, including my
own, warn people from going to Kenya. Travel companies have cancelled their Kenyan
tours for the rest of the season. And right now, safari-goers to be would normally
be booking tours for July, for October and even for next Christmas. Now they don't,
because of the machetes.
Kenya has had bad spells
before. The US embassy in Nairobi was bombed ten years ago, and a beach resort
in Mombasa was later bombed and a missile fired at a tourist airliner. There have
been riots in connection with previous elections. For some time, bandits haunted
the northern parts of the main safari region. Such events have caused temporary
drops in tourism, but overall, the industry has kept growing. Kenya is a strong
and attractive destination. The tourists will return.
There has been some
criticism from the Kenyan tourist industry regarding the way foreign travel companies
and governments have reacted, warning citizens from going to Kenya, cancelling
tours, and even evacuating tourists out of the country, thus stopping tourism
to Kenya for now.
I don't think such criticism is fair. A government can't
but advice its citizens to keep out of harm's way. Travel companies can't promote
or sell tours to an area of unrest, not knowing if it can be visited at all on
the planned date of departure, especially not as airlines and East African tour
operators and hotel chains keep demanding full final payments further and further
ahead of the actual date of the services paid for. Okay, such terms are probably
highly negotiable right now, and both foreign travel companies and Kenya share
an interest in getting business back to usual. The bottom line is, however, that
tourists won't, and shouldn't, go to places that they don't consider safe.
It's up to Kenya
It's up to Kenya to convince the tourists that the
country offers a good scene for general holidaymakers, families etc. It can't
right now. Many other popular tourist destinations around the world, competing
about the tourists' holiday budgets, can.
In fact, tourists are right
now paying extra money to have their flight routes changed, to avoid landing in
Nairobi even for a stopover. They don't want to spend a single minute on Kenyan
soil. So Kenya has problems, and has to face and tackle them before expecting
tourists to return. This time, Kenya has been seen as the world has previously
seen Rwanda, Congo and Somalia. Places where you just don't want to go.
Yet, Kenya differs from the true African no-go zones. Unlike for example Somalia,
Kenya is overall stable, and has taken important steps towards true democracy.
The unrest seen now is local and, hopefully, temporary. The violence is about
internal affairs, and not directed towards tourism. If the Kenyan leaders can
bring the violence to an end and wisely tackle its origins, Kenya will soon be
good for safari tours, beach holidays and other tourism again.