A request by Kenya’s tourism fraternity during a recent round-table meeting to President Uhuru Kenyatta to urgently appointment a government spokesman showed how badly lack of a coherent public policy was affecting the sector.
For a sector that was still reeling from the devastating effects of the terror attacks on the country, the Ebola pandemic in West Africa has knocked it off its feet as it devastates the tourism on the whole continent. Now poaching is on the rise and wildlife conservation in peril, say environmental conservation experts.
Indeed, the lack of a clear Kenya government communication strategy on what is ailing the tourism sector was best captured by numbers. The distance between Nairobi and the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is more than that from European capital, yet Kenya is bearing the brunt of the disease.
Tourist hotels and safari camps are empty, staff lay off are common and the sector is facing financial ruin, and not a single case of the disease has been reported to date.
This has, partly to do, with the government’s lack a proactive policy in addressing the concerns of the international tourist sources for Kenya. As the tourist fraternity told the head of state, “Africa is viewed as one country not a continent.”
The problem is not confined solely to Kenya and East Africa, the entire sub Saharan Africa is in the same leaky boat.
An estimated 50 per cent of hotel and safari cancellations in Kenya are due to Ebola fears, with terror threats and the travel advisories by Western governments doing the rest of the damage.
The increase in poaching and its wide media coverage has not helped matters. And though the government is reluctantly to own up; the drop in tourist numbers and receipts is affecting funding for wildlife protection.
In many regions throughout Africa, the monetary value of a wilderness reserve is continuously pitted against the potential revenue that the land could earn when it’s used for agricultural or livestock purposes.