Tourism: CS Najib Balala says political tension hurting the industry

Tourism CS Najib Balala

NAIROBI, KENYA: The number of tourists arriving in the country will drop significantly as the year comes to a close compared to the 10 per cent growth in arrivals witnessed between January and June.

This is according to Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Najib Balala who said during a tourism gala night on Wednesday that political tensions have taken a major toll on hotels and wildlife sanctuaries with tourists adopting a wait and see attitude.

“Charter planes to the coast are now running almost empty. Wildlife sanctuaries in Laikipia are recording zero guest arrivals. The situation in the tourism sector is really bad because of the tensions you feel around. The impact will definitely be felt as the year comes to a close. The industry will not recover even in early next year,” Mr Balala said.

The CS added that particularly between April and August 8 this year, tourism numbers had soared to 300,000 arrivals, up from 245,000 arrivals last year due to the early wildebeest migration, but the number has since dropped as would-be international tourists keep off.

He averred that the worry among industry players was palpable because even domestic tourism that had rejuvenated in the last two years has really gone down with people sticking to their home areas for fear of the unknown.

“If you would ask me, I would suggest that we hold elections after 10 years. At least then we wouldn’t see the problems we are witnessing currently in the tourism industry,” Balala said.

The tourism boss particularly cited Diani at the coast where he said bed occupancy maintained a low of 60 per cent. Mombasa and Malindi he claimed are also very quiet.

Ol Pajeta Ranch in Laikipia, which is arguably the biggest animal sanctuary in East Africa, with endangered Rhinos and Chimpanzees under its care, is also very quite in terms of arrivals, despite being a favourite of many Europeans.

Jonah Orumoi, the Chief Executive Officer at the Tourism Finance Corporation (TFC) agreed with Balala that the industry is limping and things might not improve even next year if the current political quagmire is not hurriedly resolved.

“Kenyan tourism is quite resilient. But still the impact being caused by the tension might prove irrecoverable in the near future if the situation is not resolved on time,” Mr Orumoi said.

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