Home' Travel News : December 2013-January 2014 Contents 44 travel news December 2013/January 2014
December 2013/January 2014 travel news 45
The tourism doldrums are not a happy
place to be. Unhappily, Kenya fnds itself
in this position for a variety of reasons.
The safari circuit operators, lodges and
camps report in the main that the upcoming
holiday season will hopefully turn out to be
better than expected. However, expectation
levels are at an all-time low, so something
of a worry; but the big concern is what is
going to happen in 2014?
The coast is all in all a very sad situation,
with hotels closing down, charter fights
cancelling their services to Mombasa and
occupancy rates at all-time lows. There is
a lot of erroneous information out there,
one of a campaign yet to be defned with
no obvious funding, which says it will
generate occupancies of 70%, which is
even a tough ask of the festive season. My
friends in the hotel industry at the coast
say this will never happen.
Add to this misery the application of value
added tax to some tourism products
and services to include game park fees.
Additionally, Kenya's newly devolved
county governments needing to fund
their own existence are seen to be further
taxing the goose that laid the golden egg
-- tourism. Levies per bed occupied or
otherwise per annum have been proposed
in Mombasa County as a way to raise
funds. Some suggest these funds will go
to promote tourism in the County, but that
is no sure thing.
I thought I'd never have to ask this
question: How important is tourism to
Kenya, and does government appreciate
its contribution to the national coffers?
Sometimes you have to say not. The Kenya
Tourist Board (KTB) has lost most of its
government funding to bolster other cash
strapped departments of government.
When the tourism industry most needs it,
there is no budget to market the country
- to keep it front of mind in its primary
source markets. To retain traction you
need to spend, even minimally, as once
traction is lost it takes a far greater fnancial
commitment to get back up to speed.
Look at Egypt, arguably in a far worse
state than Kenya, yet their tourism entities
are keeping their country's image front and
centre with a combined PR and advertising
campaign aimed mostly at European
tour operators, and through them to the
When times of plenty return, Egypt will be
streets ahead of Kenya, and in the interim
might pick up much needed incremental
Out of sight IS out of mind.
Going back to my question, I do not see any
real acknowledgement from government
that tourism is good for Kenya. It is almost
like government sees it as something that
has always been there, and that it will
always be there. Good days, bad days
it is always assumed to self-correct. So
why throw a pile of cash at it, when it has
always bounced back on its own accord.
For the record, it has never ever bounced
back on its own accord -- for too many
years the tourism private sector has for
obvious vested interests invested heavily
in promoting Kenya to its source markets.
To them the kudos, but they cannot do it on
their own. Government has to recognise the
benefts of tourism to the country: taxes,
employment and a massive contribution to
the country's bottom line.
I'm writing this from the departure coffee
shop at Jomo Kenyatta International
Airport's Terminal 3, all back to normal
and working well. But why do they have
two almost back-to-back baggage and
personal scanners? One directly as you
enter, the other ten paces further in (I
measured it) as you enter the departures
area. Security is paramount of course, but
don't you think this is a little OTT?
I was in Mombasa to celebrate Skal
Kenya's winning the organisation's World
Congress for 2015. We were met airside
off the plane by the Governor no less, a
full-house press conference followed. I
was excited that they were all so excited.
Central government hasn't really woken
up to the fact that getting this Congress
is a very big deal. Tourism's big-wigs
from around the world coming to Kenya is
massive in my usually humble opinion.
- followed to Treasury Square and the
Governor's offce. The lovely old building
which is right next door to Fort Jesus
was looking fantastic. I've not seen a
government building looking so magnifcent
and functional. More speeches followed,
an exchange of fags, much pomp and
circumstance and then it was back to
the airport, sadly this time without police
Flights on Kenya Airways in both directions
were on time every time, with the fight from
Mombasa even arriving early. As always
happy to be home.
Have a wonderful holiday season and to
my Christian friends Merry Christmas and
to all a rather early Happy New Year.
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