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Kahc officials: Insecurity a threat to tourism sector

By Philip Mwakio | November 18th 2014

Tourism players concur that the tourism industry at the Coast requires significant image transformation following persistent insecurity and radicalisation of youths in Mombasa.

They warn that the increasing cases of insecurity are a threat to efforts to restore the sector, which authorities have been trying to revive following negative travel advisories that forced a massive withdrawal of Western tourists early this year.

Current figures show that bed occupancy in Mombasa is at 40 per cent while the Kenyan south coast is now operating at just 30 per cent of its potential, a drop attributed to insecurity.

Sam Ikwaye, Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (Kahc) Coast branch executive officer, in an interview with The Standard said that the ever increasing violence in the region have painted the coastal area in very bad light.

“It is for this, and many other unforeseen reasons, that foreign nations have been giving warnings to their citizens against travel to areas they consider dangerous,” Mr Ikwaye said.

He said that already the tourism industry at the Coast was facing a dent as a result of travel advisories imposed by the United Kingdom, France, United States of America and Australia.

“Our competiting destinations like Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar have been attracting top end international hotels who have set up base there.

We are not seeing them coming to the Kenyan Coast which we believe has room for international hotel chains,” Ikwaye said.

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He added that the volume of investment as a result of the violence was likely to go down considerably with restaurants, eateries, entertainment spots and hotels closing shop due to low business. He called for urgent measures to be put in place to ensure that peace prevails.

Government intervention

Ikwaye pointed out that radicalisation of the youths is a direct result of a society giving up on itself and its own systems.

Speaking separately, tourism consultant Gomeri Kombo said that Mombasa can ill-afford to have conflict rocking it.

‘’The industry is on a downward spiral and any skirmishes will not help at all. The industry is facing numerous problems at the moment and cannot take any more,’’ Mr Kombo said

He urged for a sober approach to solving the internal problems the Kenyan community is facing.

Ikwaye said the skirmishes have also dealt a blow to investor confidence.

Kenya Safari Lodges and Hotels (KSLH) acting General Manager Silas Kithi said that skirmishes in Mombasa are a very sad scenario.

“We feel disheartened and like the sky is falling down on us. Lamu is already at a complete standstill and if Mombasa is allowed to go that way, we are doomed,” Mr Kithi said.

He called for quick intervention by the Government and all stakeholders.

“The livelihoods of many households who rely directly on the fortunes of the once flourishing tourism industry are at stake,” the GM said.

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