Tourists warned to stay away amid Kenya unrest

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Foreign tourists were warned Monday to avoid non-essential travel to Kenya amid deadly poll violence, while tour operators called off local excursions for travellers already there, officials said.

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Foreign tourists were warned Monday to avoid non-essential travel to Kenya amid deadly poll violence, while tour operators called off local excursions for travellers already there, officials said.

Britain joined a clutch of European governments advising their nationals not to visit troubled parts of the east African country, following clashes which have left at least 162 dead since disputed presidential elections Thursday.

“Sporadic incidents of violence have taken place in urban centres. There is an increased risk of violence in urban centres. “You should stay indoors and seek advice locally before travelling,” said Britain’s Foreign Office.

Austria, Denmark, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden all warned their travellers against unnecessary travel to Kenya as opposition candidate Raila Odinga rejected President Mwai Kibaki’s re-election victory.

“Due to turmoil linked to the December 27 presidential election results, it is advised to avoid all travel to Kenya in the coming days, except for urgent professional business,” said the French foreign ministry.

Italy’s foreign ministry noted that “the political situation remains unstable throughout the country,” urging Italian nationals in Kenya to “stay away from large gatherings.”

Britain specifically advised against “all but essential travel” to Nairobi city centre, as well as Kisumu, Kakamega, Kericho, Eldoret and the Kisauni area of Nyali district in Mombasa, and Likoni and Tiwi areas south of Mombasa.

In a sign of growing concern, French travel firms Nouvelles Frontieres and Kuoni France announced they were suspending flights to Kenya until further notice, including a flight Tuesday evening from Paris to Nairobi.

In Germany, travel giant TUI said its next departures for Kenya were not planned until Wednesday. “We are waiting to see how the situation develops tomorrow to decide on whether we maintain them,” said spokesman Mario Koepers.

“For the moment we have cancelled excursions for tourists on holiday on the beaches in Kenya, and pulled Nairobi as a stopover for safari tours,” he said.

Dutch tourism industry sources reported no immediate sign of people cancelling holidays, saying holidaymakers were being advised if necessary to keep away from dangerous urban centres.

In London, holiday firm Kuoni said it was also cancelling local trips. “All our clients are alright and holidays are carrying on as normal but we thought it best to cancel some local excursions,” said a Kuoni spokeswoman.

Around 10,000 Britons are in Kenya at present, nearly all either on safari or staying in beach resorts close to Mombasa. Fewer Germans travel to the country: some 83,000 visited in all of 2006.

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) said no problems had so far been reported, but underlined that operators were making holidaymakers aware of the situation.

“Holiday company staff at the resorts are reassuring tourists and we are monitoring the situation very closely .. If the situation changes for the worse then we would take appropriate action,” said a spokesman.

Sweden underlined the risk in particular for travellers not going with tour operators. “These independent travellers (should) perhaps plan to postpone their trip,” said its foreign ministry.

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