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Militants damage Kenya's vital tourism

Tuesday, December 30, 2014 - 02:18

A dwindling number of holidaymakers is expected to have a negative impact on Kenya's already damaged tourist industry. As Joel Flynn reports a spate of militant Islamist attacks is putting off visitors and depriving east Africa's biggest economy of key hard currency inflows.

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Some scenes speak for themselves. The sandy shores here in Mombasa a picture, to some, of serenity and comfort. But not to enough. Tourists visiting in 2013 fell to 1.5 million, from a peak of 1.8 million two years earlier. Sam Ikwaye represents local hotelkeepers in Mombasa. SOUNDBITE: Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast Branch Executive Officer, Sam Ikwaye, saying (English): "The biggest concern we are having...with the kind of occupancies we are having because this kind of business comes for a number of seven to 14 days and we expect again to hit the low numbers come January. That means we are going back to a low occupancies after January." The industry is a key source of income in east Africa's biggest economy. But tourism related earnings are down around 20 percent since 2008. A spate of militant attacks has put foreigners off. In September 2013 - Somali gunmen raided a Nairobi mall, killing 67 people. Civilians have increasingly been targeted. Many Western governments - including the U.S. and the UK - now have travel warnings in place for Indian Ocean regions. Mohammed Hersi is from Heritage Hotels. SOUNDBITE: Heritage Hotels Chief Executive Officer, Mohammed Hersi, saying (English): "At the end of the day, our prayer is that the travel advisory is softened especially by the UK government because tourism is the main stay of the Kenya coast region and security has also been beefed big time, a lot has happened at the Kenyan coast." Tourism is also a huge source of hard currency inflows. And falling visitor numbers piles pressure on the Kenyan shilling - it hit a three year low against the dollar as 2014 drew to a close. In contrast neighbouring Tanzania is seeing a boom in its tourism arrivals. All adding up to disaster for some local business owners like Laura Mwaura. SOUNDBITE: Wooden Carvings Seller, Laura Mwaura, saying (Swahili): "Business used to be so good, we used to make good money from all the tourists who came. Now, since the incidences of terrorism and stuff, business is poor - we're depending on local tourists, and there aren't even many of those because they're also scared to come to the coast." Many question the official figures from Kenya's tourism board. One leading Kenyan hotel group says things are much worse than reported. They see a growing number of visitors, putting safety before sunshine and sand.

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Militants damage Kenya's vital tourism

Tuesday, December 30, 2014 - 02:18