NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 7- The absence of sufficient foreign tourists in Kenya during the electioneering period has always been the norm over the years with fear of violence.
But according to Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers CEO Mike Macharia this is a trend that can be broken as it continues to affect the growth of the tourism sector to its full potential.
Macharia who spoke to Capital FM Business say the first problem to deal with is managing the negative political rhetoric during campaigns which scares away tourists and investors.
He says even without the slightest form of violence, the negative clamour in itself scare away tourists.
“Since 1992 we have had tourists shy away every time there are elections. They always think there will be violence. But this is something we can change if only we worked together,” he says. “We need our politicians to understand that there is life after elections.”
Macharia calls on the government to deal with any inciting politician and allow things to run normally despite the activity.
“How come Kenyans always want to be enemies only during elections yet they have been living together like brothers and sisters? It’s because politicians incite them,” he says.
With Kenya being on a tourism recovery journey, he urges the need to be cautious on what message is sent out there.
In 2013, Kenya held peaceful elections, something he says if replicated next year, will help create more confidence about Kenya as an all time tourist destination.
But with the past experience, is it possible to have normal or even more tourist arrivals during elections? One would ask.
“Yes, this is possible. Managing this needs the government, our politicians and the business community. The latter would ensure business activities go on hence help push the message that life will go on as normal even during elections time,” Kenya Tourism Federation Vice Chairman Adam Jillo says.
He says they are working with the Tourism Ministry and other stakeholders to see how marketing Kenya can be handled better and differently not only during the election period but other activities that may put tourists at bay.
“We need a strategy that will always work for us to ensure that our tourists both local and foreign enjoy Kenya as their best destination regardless of whatever activity ongoing on in the country,” Jillo added.