(eTN) – After a weeklong political impasse in Kenya, tourism in East Africa regained its peaceful development with positive trends in the region despite few cancellations observed by few safari companies.
Fears of violence in Kenya, the East Africa leading tourist destination, are no longer expressed among tourists visiting East Africa as a package destination, the situation once gripped tourists visiting the region a week ago.
Kenyan wildlife parks and other tourist sites are currently enjoying an utmost peace with tourists spending their time as usual with no fear of possible clashes in tourist sites.
Leading Kenyan parks of Tsavo, Amboseli, Maasai Mara and Naivasha have their tourists enjoying viewing wildlife out of fear while interacting with local communities in a friendly manner.
In Tanzania, the growing destination with great dependence on Kenya in most aspects observed some cancellations by tourists scheduled to land in Nairobi and Mombassa in their first leg to visit the East African tourist sites.
Tanzania has opened its all borders with tourist vans and passenger buses heading to Kenyan cities, despite tough security at the common border points.
Tanzanian tourist stakeholders earlier expressed their shock after noting early indications of visiting cancellations by tourists booked to visit Tanzania this month after highly publicized political unrest in Kenya hit the American and other tourist source media.
The Kenyan situation, however, damaged the tourism industry in the entire Eastern African region after reports of killings and unrest in big Kenyan cities of Nairobi and Mombassa were highly circulated in European and US media.
Executive secretary of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO), an umbrella body for private tourist stakeholders in Tanzania, Mr. Moustapha Akunaay, said his organization has been assessing the impacts of the Kenyan political violence to Tanzania’s tourism.
“We have many tourists entering Tanzania through Kenya, but I can’t tell the exact number. Our association members pass their clients through the border everyday but no data yet available to me,” Akunaay said.
“There are few tourist cancellations from our visitors coming through Nairobi and for those who had earlier planned to visit Tanzania but don’t know that Kenya and Tanzania are different states,” he said.
Statistics show that between 66 and 75 percent of annual tourists visiting northern Tanzania, the landmark of the country’s tourist industry, enter through Kenyan borders or Kenyan airports.
Tanzania received over 750,000 tourists last year and raked in revenue of about US$ 950 million, according to the state-run Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB).
Ranger Safaris Limited chief executive Mr. Abbas Moledina said political stalemate in Kenya had adversely affected Tanzanian tourism because most tourists have their holidays shared between Kenya, Tanzania and the Indian Ocean Island of Zanzibar.
“Kenya is a tourist pulling magnet and when affected, the rest of East Africa tests the pill. Prevailing situation in Kenya will affect us, and we are going to suffer tremendously unless peace is maintained the country,” he told eTN.
“We have suffered the past El Nino, and we have seen the effects of Likoni tribal clashes and the terrorist attacks in East Africa between the past ten years, now we looking political violence in our potential tourist neighbor,” Mr. Moledina said.
He said his company, one among biggest and leading ground tourist handling operator in East Africa, had observed seven cancellations up to January 2nd, with expectations to receive more before the weekend.
“We would like to observe peace prevailing in Kenya and see the big Western media portraying the real situation in East Africa instead of worrisome images which could scare tourists from coming here,” he added.
Tourists vans plying between Kenya and Tanzania could not enter each country after territorial borders were sealed off and security beefed up along the borders last week.
Former chairman of the Tanzania Confederation of Tourism (TCT) Mr. Nathani Takim said despite of some recorded tourist cancellations, there are tourists coming directly to Tanzania but the current situation in Kenya will damage tourism in the entire Eastern Africa region, if let to continue.
Big airlines supply tourists to Tanzania through Nairobi and lack of peace in Kenya could be a catastrophe to the regional tourism because potential tourists would skip visiting East Africa which is currently under a joint tourism marketing package.
Global airlines including Northwest Airlines, Delta, Virgin Atlantic and Air France bring big numbers of international class tourists to East Africa, landing in Nairobi, except beach holiday tourists who fly to Tanzania directly and those coming through few international airlines with offices in its capital city of Dar es Salaam.
“We tell the world that tourists are not targeted in Kenyan clashes other than tribal differences,” he said.
Lions Safari International Limited managing director Mr. Alfred Leo said Nairobi has been a pivotal point for East African tourism where good connections are made through Kenya Airways.
He said the warning by US government for its citizens planning to visit Kenya could adversely affect the entire regional tourism industry. More clashes in Kenya would seriously kill tourism in Tanzania, and we advise the regional governments to design marketing plans that would help to create a good image of the region.
About 600 people have died in unrest which followed the Kenyan end of the year polls with some 250,000 are feared displaced by the violence.
Publicity and the travel advisories have really hit hard the East African tourism. Tourism is Kenya’s biggest foreign currency earner, bringing in an estimated $1bn per year – more than horticulture and tea exports combined.
Visitors to Kenya doubled during the past three years, but stakeholders are worried over the current situation, despite the fact that, all frequented tourist sites are safe and outside the tribal clash zones.