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Balala seeks easing of travel advisories

Monday, February 20, 2012

TOURISM Minister Najib Balala wants travel advisories issued by some countries on Kenya to be lifted as they have forced the government to embark on a costly marketing programme to reassure tourists.

Speaking at his office on Friday during a meeting with Dutch ambassador to Kenya Joost Reintjes, Balala said the travel advisories ought to be lifted as the country was secure. He added that the advisories were hurting the tourism sector. “The advisories have destabilized holiday schedules with people who could afford upmarket holidays considering other places such as the South coast, and those who would have done beach holiday preferring to do safari,” the Minister said.

Since the abduction of two tourists at private villas in Lamu area last year, some key tourist source market countries issued travel advisories with some cautioning their citizens not to visit any area within 100km of Kenya's border with Somalia. The advisories have heavily hurt the economy of Lamu which heavily depends on tourist activities leading to protests by investors over the loss of revenue and jobs.

Balala assured the dutch envoy that the security situation has now been improved after Kenya reacted by engaging in war with the al-Shabaab militia group from Somalia who were said to be behind the tourist kidnappings in Lamu. Reintjes expressed his intention to visit Lamu to assess the security situation. Last week Balala told journalists that the ministry had requested for some funds from treasury to embark on new marketing efforts to try and mitigate the effects of the advisories.

Balala revealed that Sh200 million had already been approved by Treasury to finance the marketing but that it was yet to be released because of too much bureaucracy in government processes. Kenya missed its Sh100 billion target for tourism earnings projected for 2011 hitting Sh98 billion after several cancellations were made mid last year as a result of the kidnappings and the travel advisories.


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