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Security fears drag Kenya tourist numbers down

29 April 2014, 09:30

Nairobi - Terrorist threats and wildlife poaching hurt Kenya's tourist industry for a second year in a row in 2013, where the number of visitors slumped 11 percent, press reports said Saturday.

Tourist arrivals declined to 1.09 million in 2013, down from 1.23 million the year before, according to newspaper reports citing tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie.

Earnings from the tourism sector also dropped, falling two percent to 769 million euros ($1.06 billion - about R11.2-billion at R10.59/$), down from 786 million euros in 2012.

"Insecurity in the largest part of last year saw the number of tourist source markets issue advisories against non-essential travel to Kenya and potential tourists chose alternative destinations offering similar products," Kandie was quoted as saying.

"Kenya has also been losing its competitive advantage in the safari product due to declining wildlife population and haphazard development of accommodation facilities in major conservation areas."

Tourism is a crucial part of Kenya's economy: according to the most recent figures from 2011, the sector directly or indirectly accounted for 14 percent of economic output and roughly 12 percent of the workforce.

The post-election violence of 2007 to 2008 resulted in a 30 percent drop in tourism over the following year before recovering three years later, according to official figures.

But business dropped in 2012 and has since contained its downward trend amid attacks and kidnappings linked to the war in Somalia, fears of renewed political violence and the Westgate shopping centre attack by Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab last year.

A surge in poaching of elephants and rhinos by organised criminal gangs has also deterred visitors at a time when the cost of visiting Kenya is rising.

Kandie said the expansion of a 16 percent sales tax to include tourist goods last September had made it more expensive to visit the east African country compared to neighbours such as Tanzania and Zanzibar.



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