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Tourism unfazed in Kenya as UN supports sector after Dusit terror attack

By Philip Mwakio | January 21st 2019

Kenya Defence Forces officers leave dusitD2 Hotel building after a successful operation where Al-Shabaab militants were killed after attack. January 16, 2019. [Photo: Beverlyne Musili/Standard]

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has reached out to Kenya and offered its total support in the wake of last week’s Dusit Hotel terror attack.

In a letter of condolences to the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Mr Najib Balala, UNWTO Secretary General Mr Zurab Pololikashvili said that they had learnt with deep sorrow of the attack and subsequent deaths of innocent people at the hotel complex.

''In this difficult times, allow me to convey, on my own behalf and that of the UNWTO our heartfelt condolences to the famillies and friends of the victims and wish those in hospital quick recovery,'' the SG stated in the letter dated January 16th, 2019.

Pololikashvili reiterated UNWTO their full support in the wake of the tragedy to the people and the Government of Kenya.

'' The people of Kenya have proven their resilience many times before and I truly believe this time will be no different. Please rest assured of our utmost support as an organisation in this challenging time,'' the SG stated.

Minimal impact

In the meantime, the impact of the terrorist attack on the DusitD2 Hotel in Nairobi this week is predicted to have a minimal impact on tourism to Kenya and any setback in visitor arrivals will last less than two weeks.

This is according to VP Insights, analytical experts.

The prediction is based on an analysis of the attack on the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi in 2013 and its experience of analyzing similar terrorist incidents.

The 2013 terror attack had a clear and immediate impact on both international flight bookings and physical arrivals, but the effects faded after about 6 weeks. The Westgate siege started on Saturday 21st September.

During the first week (21-27 Sept), international bookings to Kenya dropped by 64.6%. This negative trend continued until the week of 19th October.

During this 6 week-period, international bookings were 29.0% lower than in the equivalent period the year before.

However, bookings picked-up in November; for the period 26th-October to 29th November, they grew 3.5% benchmarked against the same period in 2012.

 With regard to international arrivals in Kenya, the impact was less. They started to drop from September 24th and the trend continued until October 5th.

Over this 12-day period, international arrivals decreased by 9.3%. However, for the rest of the month (6-31 October) arrivals grew by 5.4%.

Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, said: “Of course it is likely that had the attack on Westgate been foiled in advance, there would have been no setbacks in bookings and arrivals and the growth in tourism would have continued even more strongly.

However, the bottom line is that within less than two weeks, tourism to Kenya returned to growth.

By comparison with the Westgate attack, fortunately fewer people have died and the siege ended more quickly, which means that the incident has received far less media attention.

It is also significant that all the terrorists have been killed because the possibility of the same perpetrators striking again has been eliminated.

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