INTERVIEW-Kenya sees tourism income down on euro, al Shabaab
Thu Mar 15, 2012 3:58pm GMT
* 2012 earnings to fall to 2010 levels -tourism minister
* Visitor numbers to fall 15 pct on euro and security fears
* Fears of election-related violence also a concern
By Beatrice Gachenge
NAIROBI, March 15 (Reuters) - Kenya expects tourism revenues to fall this
year as the euro zone crisis hits confidence in key markets and foreign
governments issue travel alerts over the threat from Somalian militants, its
tourism minister said on Thursday.
One of Kenya's major foreign earners alongside tea and horticulture, tourism
took a record 98 billion shillings ($1.19 billion) in 2011, but that looks
set to fall back this year to around the 74 billion shillings of 2010.
"The projection for 2012 does not look good. We will retain revenues of 2010
but passenger numbers will decline by 15 percent," Najib Balala told Reuters
in an interview.
"I'm cautious of 2012. I'm worried, not only cautious. If we are lucky, we
will only reach the 2010 figures not even 2011."
Visitors from China and other growing markets drove a surge in Kenya's
tourism revenues last year, but the euro zone crisis and fears of a repeat
of 2007's election violence are likely to hurt arrivals in 2012, tourism
officials have warned.
Britain, the United States and Australia have issued travel advisories to
citizens intending to visit Kenya following the killing of tourists in the
coastal resort of Lamu.
Kenya sent troops across the border last year to root out the Somali al
Qaeda-linked militant group, al Shabaab, blamed for the attacks, an
escalation that has raised concerns about tourist safety.
Worries about a resurgence of the violence that erupted following a disputed
presidential election in 2007 also threaten to hit tourist numbers, tour
operators have said.
Within the next 12 months, Kenya is set to hold its first national elections
since the fighting, which disrupted business and travel in east Africa's
biggest economy and killed more than 1,200 people.
"There is the economic crisis in Europe, we have our own image crisis
because of the al Shabaab, and we have not been funded enough to clean our
image. Travel advisories have been the key damage for us by the Western
embassies," Balala said.
"There have been no cancellations, but slow booking, and they are not
encouraging, especially for summer. The figures we have are not the same as
Balala said the government had increased security measures in tourist areas
such as Lamu, but security scares in border areas and, more recently, in the
capital had raised concerns of further attacks.
An explosion hit a bus station in Nairobi on Saturday evening, an attack the
government blamed on al Shabaab. Police said grenades were thrown and nine
people had been killed.
($1 = 82.4500 Kenyan shillings) (Editing by James Macharia and Robin
C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved
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Received on Thu Mar 15 2012 - 17:25:08 EDT