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Blamuel Njururi – Nairobi, May 23, 2014 – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta Friday announced a raft of specific measures aimed at breathing life into the tourism sector seriously distressed by a wave of terrorism scare.
The said Kenyans working in corporate and business entities will now enjoy paid up vacations in the tourism sector as one way to energize the industry. The Kenya Government will reduce wildlife parks fees to $80 for domestic and regional tourists and to $ 90 for international tourists.
Making the announcement after a meeting with tourism sector stakeholders at State House Nairobi, President Kenyatta said the Government is taking specific measures to stimulate the tourism sector including giving at least 25,000 Kenyans a chance to go for a week’s holiday every month at the expense of their employers.
Other measures taken to revamp the sector include exemption of VAT Act, 2013; on air ticketing services supplied by travel agents as well as payment of all income tax related refunds owed to tourism industry players by the Kenya Revenue Authority not later than Thursday next week.
He called on the Kenyan diaspora, who can afford an overseas holiday to visit their motherland’s world class National Parks and the tantalizing beach facilities along the Kenyan coast. He asked Kenyans overseas to market their homeland and invite their friends to visit Kenya.
To give impetus to tourism sector recovery, President Kenyatta affirmed that all budgetary resources at National Government earmarked for foreign travel in Supplementary II, will be reallocated to domestic travel. He also urged other arms of Governments to do the same.
“The National Government urges the County Governments to reallocate all their foreign travels budgets to domestic travels in order to spur growth of domestic tourism and sustain employment,” President Kenyatta stated.
President Kenyatta said the industry has also identified several other measures to complement government’s initiatives to revamp the sector. The tourism stakeholders pledged to offer better vacation package to Kenyans compared to what they offer international package tourists, estimated at about USD 60 daily per person.
“The Government and Industry will develop an interactive Kenya Tourism Portal, within a week, to promote and manage booking and distribution of domestic guests under the Tourism Stimulus Program,” the President further added.
He affirmed that for the Medium to Long Term Measures, the Government will reconstitute a task Force with a mandate of developing a strategy to address underlying challenges and positioning Kenya as a preferred destination for all types’ of tourism activities including conferencing tourism and professional services in Africa, attracting at least 5 million guests in the next five years.
Chairman of Tourism Committee in Council of Governors who is also the Taita/Taveta Governor John Mruttu, said the Industry players appreciate measures taken by the National Government and that they will fully support the initiatives regardless the current challenges facing the sector.
“ I also welcome what has been agreed with the hotel owners where hotels in the beach and in the park will stop selling curious and other wares and instead leave this business to small scale traders,’ said Governor Mruttu.
The chairlady of the Kenya Tourism Federation Lucy Karume urged all stakeholders in the industry to do their best and maintain the good image of the country.
The Kenyan leader’s move comes on the heels of Western government travel advisories that have hit the country’s main foreign exchange earner the worst ever in recent history. Thousands of hotel workers in Coast have been declared redundant due to a drastic drop in the number of international tourists, officials from various counties in the region said Tuesday.
Lay-off of at least 4,000 workers, has been blamed on the low tourist season that began in April and travel advisories, which were issued by the United Kingdom, the US, France and Australia earlier this month.
However, some British tourists had chosen to remain in Mombasa to continue enjoying their holidays despite the travel advisory and the evacuation of about 700 tourists at the weekend. Those evacuated were mainly on vacation in hotels in the South Coast.
Kwale County tourism executive Adam Sheikh said about 1,500 workers has been laid off since April. “Some hotels have temporarily shut down owing to the low season, while those remaining open are averaging at 10 per cent occupancy,” he said.
The Kwale county official said hundreds of businesspeople, who depend on tourism, have also been denied their livelihoods. Among those affected were curio dealers, safari sellers, boat operators, fishermen, farmers, taxi drivers and suppliers of various goods.
“Diani depends solely on tourism and following the evacuation of the British tourists, traders who depend on the industry are out of business,” he said.
In Kilifi County, at least half of the hotels in Malindi and Watamu tourist resort towns have been closed down, according to the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Kilifi County branch chairman Philip Chai.
Of the 26 hotels affiliated to KAHC in Kilifi County, 13 had closed down due to lack of tourists. As a result, about 2,500 workers were sent home. The KAHC official said hotels that solely depend on Italian tourists were the hardest hit.
“From March to date, we have seen 50 per cent of hotels in Kilifi County close down due to tourist’s drought,” he said. “We expect the hotels to reopen from mid-July to July 26 depending on when the Italian chartered airlines will resume flights.”
KAHC Coast branch executive officer Sam Ikwaye said the hotels, which have been temporarily closed down due to the low season in Malindi and Watamu towns, include Tropical Village, Coral Key, Blue Bay Village, Turtle Bay and Kilili Baharini.
Meanwhile, British holidaymaker Alma White said she found no reason to cut short her five-week holiday since she felt safe in Mombasa even as her colleagues were evacuated. Ms. White said when the UK issued the travel advisory, which led to the evacuation, her family called her.
“I told my family in the UK that I was very safe together with my partner and that we had decided to remain in Mombasa till the last day of our holiday on May 30,” she said.
Last week, she says, a travel agent visited her at the hotel and told her to cut short her holiday following the UK travel advisory.
Such blatant intrusion, Kenya tourism industry holds points towards economic sabotage far removed from the terrorism threat.