Popular Posts

Blog Archive

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tourism minister insists Kenya is safe after latest attack

 A beach in the Lamu archipelago, part of Kenya which is currently out of bounds to British travellers Photo: ALAMY

Najib Balala travelled to London this week to embark on a PR offensive following an incident last Friday when two Swiss holidaymakers where attacked by bandits.

The unnamed man and woman were travelling back to the Sarova Shaba Game Lodge, 150 miles north of Nairobi, when their vehicle was shot at, killing their driver and injuring the woman.

Until now the attacks had all taken place close to the Somali border and were thought to be the work of the al-Shabaab, a Somali militant group linked to al-Qaeda.

In September publishing executive David Tebbutt was shot dead and his wife Judith kidnapped while staying at the remote Kiwayu resort on the country’s Indian Ocean coast.

On October 1, Marie Dedieu, a disabled French woman, was kidnapped from Manda island, part of the Lamu archipelago, a popular destination for holidaymakers. She subsequently died in the hands of her captors.

And in the same month two Spanish aid workers were taken from the Dadaab refugee camp close to the Kenya-Somali border and have not been found since.

The latest attack happened hundreds of miles from the border, fuelling fears that attacks on tourists could occur anywhere in the country.

But Mr Balala, whose government sent tanks, aircraft and troops into Somalia last month in a bid to capture al-Shabaab leaders, is keen to clarify the situation. Little surprise since tourism accounts for 10 per cent of the Country’s GDP.

“People need to understand the geography here,” he said. “The game parks and reserves that our tourists enjoy are hundreds of kilometres away from the Somalian border where the troubles are. The most recent incident was not linked to the al-Shabaab at all. This was about two tribes fighting over cattle and the driver and tourists were caugh in the crossfire”.

The Foreign Office is currently warning against travel to beach resorts that are within 150km of the Somali border and any destination within 60km of the border. Mr Balala said the advice was too cautious, and said that security on the coast had been increased.

Last month Telegraph Travel reported that a large number of hotels in Lamu, within this exclusion zone, have been forced to temporarily close their doors.

But the Kenyan tourist board claims it has not seen any noticeable change in visitor numbers compared with last year. It is, however, concerned about the effect on bookings for next year. Muriithi Ndegwa, the board's managing director, said: “People who have already committed to Kenya aren’t cancelling their holidays but we are worried about those people who are thinking about coming here and might rule it out after this.”

Until this autumn, the country was on course for a record year for tourism. Its popularity soared after Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton at a remote lakeside resort on the northern slopes of Mount Kenya last year. The country has been preparing to further capitalize on its British royal connections. Next year, to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee, the Treetops resort in the Aberdare National Park will reopen. It is here that the Queen was staying when she learnt of King George VI’s death in 1952.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...