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 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
- 2 Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
- 3 Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
- 4 iPhone 5c to be discontinued, no iPhone 6c to replace it
Natural wonders in the UK: From Giant's Causeway to Durdle Door
Flight from Britain to Turkey delayed by 7 hours after champagne cork damages ceiling
Exclusive Escapes: Upmarket holiday company goes bust on the eve of bank holiday weekend
What's it like on board North Korean airline Air Koryo - the worst in the world?
The most powerful passports in the world
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Stock up on canned food for stock market crash, warns former Gordon Brown adviser
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn voters most likely to believe 'world is controlled by a secretive elite'
£26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Product Development departm...
£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£30000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Estates Team of this group ...