Kenya 'must be joking' about tourism figures

Some tourists in Masai Mara, Kenya. (Natursports/Shutterstock.com)
Some tourists in Masai Mara, Kenya. (Natursports/Shutterstock.com)

Nairobi - A leading Kenyan hotel chain has disputed official figures for tourist arrivals, saying violent attacks by militant Islamists have scared away far more tourists than the authorities admit.

The Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) said earlier that arrivals in the first four months of the year were down 4% from a year earlier to just more than 381 000.

TPS Eastern Africa, which operates the Serena chain of hotels, luxury lodges and tented camps, said: "We must be joking!"

It said its own survey for the first half of the year showed business on the important coastal tourism circuit fell by 30% to 50% on last year while inland trips to destinations such as to the Maasai Mara game reserve and Mount Kenya had fallen by 20%.

Tourism is a leading source of foreign currency for east Africa's biggest economy and the government has been trying to encourage the sector to grow and create jobs.

But last year's attack on a Nairobi shopping mall, followed by gun and grenade attacks at beach resorts, have prompted some western nations to warn their citizens against travel to parts of Kenya, leading to even fewer tourists at resorts along the Indian Ocean coast in recent weeks.

TPS said the board's statement was "not in touch with the reality on the ground," adding: "We wonder if KTB and the Kenya tourism industry live in the same Kenya."

Tourist arrival figures for the first half of the year will be released in the next three weeks, the official said. "It is not business as usual - let us not kid ourselves," the TPS group said.

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