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Militants hurt Kenya's vital tourism

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 02:06

May 28 - Kenya's vital tourism industry is ''on its knees'' after recent attacks by Somali militants led to travel alerts from four key countries. Sonia Legg reports on what could be a crisis for the east African country.

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Fine beaches, sunny weather and the best wildlife brought one and a half million tourists to Kenya last year. But 1.8 million came in 2011 and the decline looks set to accelerate. Thanks to deadly gun and grendade attacks by Somalia's al Shabaab militants, tourist alerts are in place in Britain, the U.S., Australia and France - which account for more than a third of Kenya's tourists. The country's President says the industry is "on its knees". Muriithi Ndegwa is from Kenya's Tourist Board. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MURIITHI NDEGWA, KENYA TOURISM BOARD MANAGING DIRECTOR, SAYING: "Some of these incidents have consequently negatively affected our destination in terms of brand image and also in terms of the perception as to what people feel about our destination." As well as tea and horticulture Kenya relies on tourism - it accounts for an eighth of its $38 billion GDP and tax revenue. It employs 350,000 people and many jobs could now be under threat. Mike Kamau runs a beach hotel in Mombasa. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MIKE KAMAU, ACTING GENERAL MANAGER, SAROVA WHITESANDS BEACH HOTEL, SAYING: "Most people who are still avoiding Mombasa may take longer time to make decisions and should they make decisions then we are likely to see them coming either early next year or late this year in September." Businesses too are suffering - both large and small. (SOUNDBITE) (Swahili) ZAKAYO ISIKA, CURIO TRADER, SAYING: "This season business is slow, very slow. You can be here for two weeks and not make any sales." Kenya has tried to woo China's travellers in recent years but European visitors still outnumber Asian ones. Commerical deals with China may help - Kenya recently signed several, including a multi-billion dollar railway linking Mombasa to Nairobi. But some suspect that's why western countries were so quick to impose travel restrictions - saying they want to weaken Kenya's economy. Either way - weakened it is. Eight months after al Shabaab killed at least 67 people at the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi the government is yet to fulfil an election promise to get a grip on security and expand the tourism industry.

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Militants hurt Kenya's vital tourism

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 02:06