Kenya dismisses 'unfriendly' foreign travel warnings

2014-05-15 10:39


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Nairobi - Kenya's foreign ministry accused several foreign nations of "unfriendly acts" on Thursday, after they issued travel warnings for coastal regions following a wave of attacks and unrest linked to Islamist extremists.

The advice from Britain, France and Australia to their nationals to avoid the coastal city of Mombasa dealt a fresh blow to Kenya's already embattled tourism sector, as avoiding the port complicates travel to nearby beach resorts.

"The advisories... are obviously unfriendly acts coming from our partners who have equally borne the brunt of global terrorism and no doubt understand the repercussions of terror," said the statement from Kenya's foreign ministry.

It "noted with disappointment" the warnings by Australia, Britain, France and the United States, dismissing their cautions to citizens and insisting tourists are assured of "utmost security and safety" in Kenya.

"Issuance of such travel advisories only plays to the whims of bad elements in society whose aim is to spread fear and panic," the statement added.

Massive drop

Last month Kenya confirmed that the number of foreign visitors to the country - a top safari and beach destination - slumped by 11% in 2013, when the country was gripped by fears of election-related political violence.

The current year is expected to also see a massive drop, particularly in the wake of the September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that was claimed by Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab rebels and left at least 67 dead.

Tourism is a crucial part of Kenya's economy: according to the most recent figures from 2011, the sector directly or indirectly accounted for 14% of economic output and roughly 12% of the workforce.

Kenya has been targeted by the Shabaab since sending troops to war-torn Somalia in 2011 to fight them.

Britain's Foreign Office on Wednesday became the latest this week to warn against "all but essential travel to Mombasa", citing "recent terrorist attacks and the continuing terrorist threat in the area".

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