Over Sh870 million is estimated to have been lost in the past week due to the slump in tourism at the Coast, Mombasa governor Hassan Joho has said.
Wednesday governors from Kwale, Kilifi, Tana River, Lamu, Taita Taveta, Kilifi and Mombasa held talks with UK, Canada, France and the US envoys on how to reduce the cost of cancellations sparked by recent travel advisories and revive tourism. They also discussed the challenges affecting tourism at the Coast.
According to Mr Joho, who addressed reporters at the Council of Governors offices in Nairobi, more than 5,000 jobs have been lost after hotels closed or scaled down their businesses.
Besides the threats posed by terrorism, Coast hotels have been hit by the traditional low season which lasts until October when autumn starts in Europe ahead of winter.
Present at the Press conference were Governors Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Salim Mvurya (Kwale), Issa Timmami (Lamu) , Hussein Dado (Tana River) and John Mruttu (Taita-Taveta).
Among the programmes that the governors and the ambassadors agreed to undertake jointly is entrepreneurship training for the youth which is expected to make them self-employed.
The programme will supplement the concession given earlier this month when President Uhuru Kenyatta removed VAT on air tickets and offered tax incentives for companies which pay for their employees’ holidays.
The President also lifted the ban on government institutions holding meetings in hotels.
“The government, with effect from June 12 in 2014, will allow all corporate and business entities to pay vacation trip expenses for their staff on annual leave in Kenya and deduct such expenditures in their taxes,” Mr Kenyatta said. He spoke a day after 500 British tourists were evacuated from the South Coast after their Foreign Office issued a travel advisory to its citizens.
The President said the government hoped to directly give at least 25,000 Kenyans a chance to go for a week’s holiday every month at the expense of their employers, bringing to total more than 300,000 additional Kenyan guests to hotels.
This was among other moves seeking to return the sector to its former glory. Others included a reduction in park fees, meant to attract both local and international tourists.
“All park fees currently set at Sh7,830 ($90) per non-resident and Sh1,200 per resident guest shall be reduced to Sh6,960 ($80) and Sh1,000, respectively, effective June 12, this year,” read Mr Kenyatta’s statement.
The US, the UK, France and Australia had issued travel advisories warning their citizens not to travel to some parts of the Coast and Nairobi. As a result, some British tourists were evacuated with tour operators arguing that the advisories had increased their insurance costs.
UK tour firms Thomson and First Choice, which had charter flights to Mombasa cancelled the flights until October.
The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) has embarked on a campaign to diversity its tourist source markets to ensure that the sector remains stable even with fluctuating arrivals from its key markets.
The top five source markets for Kenya are the United Kingdom with 149,699 arrivals last year, the US (115,636), Italy (79,993), India and Germany with 64,887 and 60,450 respectively.
Tourist arrivals in Kenya last year dipped by 12 per cent due to insecurity and a decline in services.
The total number of arrivals last year stood at 1.09 million, down from 1.23 million in 2012.
According to KTB managing director Muriithi Ndegwa, Kenyans can take advantage of the country’s rich cultural uniqueness and get to know their country better at the same time promoting domestic tourism.
Meanwhile, the increase in cases of terror attacks has been blamed on low levels of security education among citizens and government agents.
The chairman of the national taskforce on community told a public baraza in Tiwi, Kwale County, that the problem of insecurity could be eradicated through thorough security education.
Additional reporting by Farouk Mwabege