NAIROBI, Kenya – The recent crackdown on the separatist Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) in Coast region does not seem to have adversely affected the hotel industry.
Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association (MCTA) Chairman Mohamed Hersi said that the impact has not been huge; however put more of the blame for a decline in bookings to what is happening in external global markets.
“The news reports about the MRC and insecurity in our source markets have been bad for business, but the Eurozone crisis has not helped the situation. Who wants to go on holiday when they could lose their home or job?” he wondered.
Initial indication that the election would be held in December – which is a high season for the industry – also meant that a number of bookings did not materialise.
“Most tourists book early and some who thought the election period would be in December decided to book elsewhere, well before the new date had been announced,” said Mike Macharia, Chief Executive Officer Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers.
Macharia said there was a 22 percent decline in the number of tourists visiting Mombasa in the first eight months, which he attributed to incidents of terrorism, the Eurozone crisis and withdrawal of charters.
Tourist arrivals declined marginally by 0.5 percent for the first quarter of this year, following a tourist’s abduction in Lamu towards the end of last year and subsequent travel advisories issued by some of Kenya’s key source markets such as the UK and France.
Ahead of the December high season, Macharia and Hersi were split on performance, with the former more pessimistic due to the recent occurrences of insecurity.
“It’s not going to be very good. We were not expecting a very good year this time around anyway,” Macharia said.
However, the diversification into alternate markets to make up for the ailing traditional source markets in Europe and the United States Hersi said has proven to be good for business especially from within the region.
“We’ve tapped into Ethiopia, with Ethiopian Air starting direct flights to Mombasa and connecting it to 65 destinations around the world, as well as direct flights by Air Uganda and RwandAir. We realised we do not need to look so far out,” Hersi said.
Qatar Airways is also in talks with the government to begin direct flights to Mombasa, with official word from Doha needed to finalise the agreement, according to Transport Minister Amos Kimunya.