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Tourism is struggling on Kenyan coast

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 10 – The tourism industry at the Coast is still reeling from the effects of the negative publicity generated by the post election crisis that occurred in early 2008.

Chairman of the South Coast Hotelkeepers Association Vikram Koria has said that despite a slight increase in the number of charters flying to the region, the industry has just begun picking up in the last four months.

“We used to have 47 chartered flights coming into the Coast by the end of 2007. After the violence began, by January 15, they had come down to eight, and there was a total collapse of the industry,” he said.

Mr Koria however expressed optimism that the industry could fully pick up by November this year.

Speaking to Capital Business, Mr Koria noted that as a result of the cancellation of the chartered flights, the hotel industry has suffered a lot of frustration from the charter operators, who have indicated that Kenya has become a hard destination to sell.

The chairman further raised concerns that the government needed to react quickly to negative incidents like that of the post election violence, to reduce the negative consequences and repercussions on the destination.

“A country like Egypt has a number of times suffered very negative publicity, but their government unlike ours reacts very fast,” Mr Koria observed.

“You get to see their President having interviews on international television channels like CNN, thus giving visitors the confidence and reassurance that the government is control.”

Mr Koria said that hotels in the Coast are currently recording bed occupancies of about 40 percent but expressed hope that the industry should achieve 70 percent bed occupancy by the end of this year.

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Meanwhile local airline SafariLink has launched a daily flight to Diani in the South Coast in a bid to take advantage of the slowly recovering market.

The airline’s new endeavour also comes at a time when the South Coast is struggling with the negative repercussions of a malfunctioning ferry and erratic services; a situation that has seen hoteliers complain of losing out on visitor numbers.

“There are two dimensions to this problem which include the international tourist who has no choice but to use the ferry when they land at the Moi International Airport at the Coast, and the local tourist who will not bother to cross over to the hotels on this side due to the inconveniences of this ferry,” a hotelier explained.

SafariLink Managing Director John Buckley said that the company launched the daily afternoon flight to tap into a market that the airline deems quite viable.

“We usually have tourists from European countries who want to combine a safari and beach holiday and such a route makes a lot of sense for them,” Mr Buckley said.

He observed that though the route may not make any good returns for them in the next one to two years, it’s a viable one in the long run.

Mr Buckley revealed that SafariLink had entered into an agreement with another airline serving this same route so that passengers can buy tickets from either of the airlines to either travel in the morning or in the afternoon.

The flights cost approximately Sh15,000 return.

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