Faced with a 53% drop in the number of international tourists arriving in Kenya in the first quarter of 2008 due to socio-political unrest, the ambassador of the United States of America to Kenya is appealing to Americans to come partake of the “country’s dynamic and world-class tourism industry”.
In an open letter to American tourists and businesspeople, reports Dr Wolfgang Thome in eTN Uganda, Michael Ranneberger says the establishment of a ‘Grand Coalition’ government is “making Kenya once again the perfect locale for business and tourism.”
Ranneberger, an ambassador Kenyan politicians love to hate for his sharp eye and tongue, writes, “I urge you to look again at Kenya as an exciting destination for tourism and for doing business, be it trade or investment.”
Using a language that would endear him even to his detractors in the Kenyan political establishment, the US ambassador concludes, “The country is very much back in business and this is an exciting time to be here. There is a tangible spirit of renewed hope and opportunity. You’ll find Kenyans to be welcoming and warm.”
As socio-political unrest and violence wreaked havoc in the first two months of 2008 and international tourists kept away from Kenya, domestic tourism helped to cushion the travel sector in against collapse. eTN reports that the domestic tourism segment of the industry grew its occupancy by 45 per cent, the best performance compared to all other segments of the sector.
Quoting the Kenya Tourist Board (KTB), eTN says that local tourism earned the sector up to Sh3.65 billion of the total Sh8.08 billion earned during the period under review. Total bed occupancy in the night increased by 67 per cent from 30 per cent during the same period the previous year.
KTB statistics for the term show tourist arrivals dropped by 52.3 per cent, pressing down the first quarter earnings to a paltry Sh8.08 billion instead of the projected Sh21 billion. Making up for the shortfall could be a Herculean task and that is why the efforts of people like Rannenberger in marketing the country’s potential to their citizens could come in handy.
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Traditionally, most tourists to Kenya come from the United Kingdom followed by the United States, Italy and Germany, in that order.
Meanwhile, air travellers in Kenya are assessing the advantages of booking online as opposed to using travelagents with Kenya Airways, KLM and other major carriers having opted for the online business with effect from April 1, 2008.
However, agents like Let’s Go Travel say they offer a better service than the online air-ticket booking. “With the recent promotion by Kenya Airways around Nairobi about booking online, and with the changes since 1st April of not being granted commission and therefore charging service fees, we just wish to inform you that we are still very much open for business, and selling tickets on the above two carriers as well as most other airlines,” Let’s Go Travel says in its newsletter. “Remember that whilst you can look at the specific airline websites, you only get the information on that
airline; whereas we can give you all the options, the terms and conditions attached to the various airline tickets and booking classes, and some of the pitfalls some people have actually booked themselves to the wrong city (there is also London in Canada)! We can easily help with amendments, cancellations and processing of refunds – all a real headache online. At a ‘click of a button’ our experienced consultants can give you professional advice.”
Need we say more?