Kate Simon: Kenya can't afford to bank on tourism for its future
Kate Simon is the Travel Correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. She was Travel Editor of The Independent on Sunday from 2005 to 2011. Kate is also the co-founder of Little Black Book Creative (www.lbbcreative.co.uk), which offers editorial services, media relations consultancy and travel-writing training.
Sunday 09 October 2011
The problem of countries relying too much on tourism has been highlighted again by recent events in north-east Kenya.
The country has built a formidable profile as a holiday destination; its national parks are among the top places to go on safari in Africa. Consequently, tourism has become the main source of foreign exchange for Kenya, with 1.6 million holidaymakers now pouring up to $1bn into the country's coffers each year.
But the murder of David Tebbutt and the kidnapping of his wife Judith, followed by the abduction of Marie Dedieu, have inevitably hit Kenya's tourism industry just as it was recovering from the last slump in visitor numbers, in the 1990s, triggered by a wave of violence including the bombing of the American embassy in Nairobi.
The Foreign Office is currently advising against travel only to coastal areas within 150km (90 miles) of the Somali border. That leaves lots of other places to visit – the Great Rift Valley, Mombasa and Nairobi, the Tsavo National Park, to name a few. But how many people perusing travel brochures for some winter sun or safari action will flick straight past Kenya for now?
The Kenyan authorities are doing their best to limit the damage. The tourism minister has sought to point out that Kenya's offerings are not limited to the northern shores of its Indian Ocean coast.
"A glance at the map will show that these events have occurred hundreds of kilometres away from the coastal and inland destinations which are so popular with the majority of our visitors," says the minister. "With the small exception of the northern coast, none of our visitor destinations are in any way affected by some countries' travel advisories ...."
If tourism is hit hard, Kenyans will surely feel the pressure. Beyond the postcard images, this is a country entangled in regional politics, with war-torn Somalia on its doorstep. It still bears the legacy of British rule, dogged by corruption and answerable for its every move to the IMF. While it is hardly one of Africa's poorest countries, the gap between rich and poor is growing, with half its people living below the poverty line.
There are many reasons to go on holiday to Kenya and we should continue to visit. But the fallout from these tragic events show that tourism can never provide a sustainable route to prosperity.
Going away for Christmas? If you plan to travel by train in the UK, take note: the cheapest rail tickets for the holiday period are just going on sale. And, according to online booking agency The Trainline, you should snap one up soon to make real savings.
It says that the busiest days for travel over Christmas will be 23 and 24 December. While that's hardly a surprise, it is interesting to note that though 85 per cent of tickets for those days aren't bought until November, even December, if you buy an advance ticket now you could make significant savings.
For example, an advance ticket for a journey between Cardiff Central and London Paddington is now on sale for £11.50. If you wait until the day of travel that price will rocket by an eye-watering 88 per cent. Better treat yourself to an early Christmas present....
Do you have a travel issue? Email email@example.com
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 3 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 4 Penis size: Study revealing 'what's normal' sends international media into meltdown
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...
£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...