OPINION: Undeterred: Kenya’s tourism faces 2020 confidently
Last weekend I was in Diani, Ukunda. Famed for its white sandy beaches and hospitable facilities, it was a welcome relief to Nairobi’s hustles.
The same week, Kenya was still reeling from the Al Shabaab terrorist group attack in Manda Bay, Lamu. The same group had also claimed attacks in Daadab and in Mandera. These attack killing innocent Kenyans among them school going children.
Unlike in the past, I made a mental note to gauge the impact of these attacks on the region’s tourism activities.
But to my delight, not much effect. Boarding at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport our Jambojet flight to Ukunda was near full. This consisting of a healthy mix of domestic and foreign tourists as well as passengers who were travelling to other parts of Kwale County.
On checking in at the Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa an hour and a half later, I was surprised. Settling in for lunch at the Fins bar overlooking the beach, it was a market place! Tens of tourists easily mingling with locals at hand to sell their wares to them was pleasant sight.
This confirming a previous statement issued by Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers coast branch reassuring that the incident in Lamu was far much isolated.
A drive down to Shimoni and a boat ride to Wasini and Kisite Mpunguti the next day would reinforce the ‘Kenyan tourism is resilient’ mantra. Hundreds of tourists leisurely enjoyed the Marine Park, snorkelling and sun bathing soaking up south coast deep offerings.
Speaking casually to staff at Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa they said they enjoyed constant streams of tourists. The attack they said would not dampen their spirits and that of their guests.
“The Kenyan spirit in us will not deter us, well the attacks are there but we are confident that the government is capable of dealing with it decisively. Kenyan coast is open for business throughout, we are happy to receive and serve our guests,’’ one staffer told me over dinner.
As a journalist these kinds of statements lights the green bulb. They tell the deeper meaning of players in the tourism sector resolve to keep flying the Kenyan flag even higher.
In 2019 Kenya received 2.05 million tourists arriving from various destinations. At Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa, I met Ugandans and Nigerians who had flown in to sample Kenya’s beautiful coast.
2020 can only be better. Listening to Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala during the release of the sector statistics, his confidence told it all. Kenya’s tourism is resilient and will do better.
Joseph Bonyo is Citizen TV Business Editor.
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