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Kenyan tourism upbeat despite repeat presidential election

By Philip Mwakio | Published Wed, September 20th 2017 at 00:00, Updated September 19th 2017 at 23:12 GMT +3
Kenya Tourism Federation (KFT) National chair Mohamed Hersi. Photo/Mkamburi Mwawasi/Standard.

The number of tourists has remained steady despite heightened political temperatures in the country. 

The peak tourist season coincided with Kenya's General Election and by the time the country went to the polls on August 8, the annual wildebeest migration in the Maasai Mara had attracted thousands of visitors.

The annulment of the presidential poll days later prompted fears that some visitors might suspend their planned vacations in the country.

But the Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) says the industry has not experienced massive overseas tourist cancellations so far, and remained optimistic that the sector would withstand the current political heat.

Speaking in an interview at the Nyali Sun Africa Beach Hotel & Spa in Mombasa on Tuesday, KTF Chairman Mohamed Hersi said no tourists had cancelled their planned visits so far.

"Kenyan tourism is resilient. We are looking forward to a good year. Already, numbers for the first to third quarters are extremely good. We are optimistic of bouncing back and getting to where the numbers were prior to 2007, when we had the highest arrivals," said Mr Hersi.

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Peaceful polls

Hersi, who is also the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Sun Africa Hotels, attributed this to peaceful polls on August 8 as well as positive media coverage.

"Our campaigns and elections went on smoothly, devoid of any major incidents. The international media did not pick anything negative that would have had a bearing on new arrivals," he said.

According to Hersi, recent figures indicate that international arrival numbers have hit close to 1.5 million so far.

He singled out the US and Canada, which have so far brought in around 200,000 visitors, and also pointed out new emerging tourist markets such as India and China.

"The United Kingdom market is also looking up. Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways have been able to bring us the numbers," he said.

The industry is also celebrating the return of Italians to the Kenyan coast, particularly Watamu and Malindi. There were fears that the Italians were diverting to Zanzibar.

"We have two weekly chartered flights from Italy into Mombasa now and this is very encouraging," said the federation chairman.

However, the seasoned hotelier warned that the uncertainty surrounding the exact date of the repeat presidential poll and threats of a boycott were not good for business.

He appealed to politicians to help ease political tensions across the country.

"So far, both Jubilee Party and the National Super Alliance have done well to ensure that we do not turn against each other and cause mayhem," he said.

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