Three weeks after civil unrest erupted in Kenya over a disputed presidential election, Travel Agent has heard that the dropoff in tourists is beginning to take its toll. One tour operator told us that while the country has been calm, some coast hotels have closed and some game lodges and tented camps are likely to close due to low occupancy.
Official reports were not so foreboding. According to a report from the Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF), the situation in Nairobi and Mombasa this week has been calm, with no problems or incidents affecting tourists. In Nairobi there is a heavy police presence around Parliament, which reopened Tuesday and is now in session. Authorities decided not to close the Uhuru Highway, so traffic continued as normal for airport transfers and for safaris departing from or passing through Nairobi. There were no reports of problems for tourists in Nairobi hotels, beach resorts or wildlife parks or on the access routes to and from these areas.
ODM, the main opposition party, and its supporters have staged rallies this week in Nairobi and Mombasa, but they have remained peaceful, had only "minor skirmishes" or been dispersed by police, according to reports. The KTF said violent confrontations between protesters and police have been confined to Nairobi slums and to places in western Kenya far away from the areas currently visited by tourists. That includes the Kisumu/Kericho/Eldoret area, which is considered off-limits for tourists and is being avoided by tour operators, according to the KTF.
A ground operator in Kenya told Travel Agent: "We have not had any problems driving in and out of Nairobi or surrounding environs. You can see the police presence, but they are not intimidating. If there were tourists in the country, their holiday would be totally as per normal."
In a separate development related to Africa tourism, Ethiopia Airlines launched a "free companion fare" sale to about 30 destinations on the continent (including Nairobi). The offer is good January 19 through March 19. The airline serves the U.S. via Washington Dulles, with connecting flights throughout Africa from Addis Ababa. (AO & MA)