NEW YORK-Despite a State Department warning against travel to Kenya
and Tanzania in the wake of last week's bombing of the U.S.
embassies there, major tour operators report little impact on their
business over the weekend.
Late Friday the State Department issued statements on both
countries, warning U.S. citizens against travel there, and urging
them "to limit travel within the country and to exercise caution."
(State Dept. Warnings for Kenya and Tanzania.)
"We haven't had a single cancellation," said Dennis Pinto,
managing director of Micato Safaris in New York. "Our financial
losses at this point are zero."
Pinto said the company kept its office open all weekend.
Staffers called every client booked to travel in the next few
months, filling them in on the situation and the State Department's
travel advisory, and offering full refunds if they chose to cancel.
The company also sent letters about the situation by fax or courier
to clients' travel agents.
Micato had several groups in East Africa at the time of the
explosions, including some in Nairobi, and gave them all the
opportunity to cut short their trips and return home, but "no one
took us up on that offer," Pinto said.
Pinto said he polled his staff after their weekend of one-on-one
discussions with clients, and they reported "a tremendous sense of
'we're still going.'" He added, "People seemed to feel that this
was an event that had nothing to do with Kenya," and thus saw no
future threat to Americans traveling there.
The U.S. Embassy bombing won't require any changes in Micato's
programs, he said--not even in the Nairobi portion of tours."The
Embassy is on the other side of town from the major hotels we're
using," he said. "And on a normal city sightseeing route, I don't
think anyone goes past the Embassy."
Abercrombie & Kent also offered customers currently in East
Africa the chance to come back early, and none of the 214 clients
who are there chose to do so, said company spokeswoman Christa
She said that since the bombings, A&K has received "a
tremendous amount of call volume" from customers and agents, and by
the end of Monday, "about 10% of our clients to Kenya and Tanzania
have canceled," she said.
Marj Abbott, an Africa specialist at Safaricentre International
in Manhattan Beach, Calif., said, "We've had more clients than
normal calling with questions, but we've had no cancellations." She
said that most clients seemed to understand that the terrorist
incidents were "localized" in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, directed
solely at the embassies there, "and that when they're out on
safari, they're not in any danger."
The parties who seem to be most worried, Abbott said, are the
local ground operators that the company works with in Africa. "I
think they're very concerned that business will decline because of
the advisory, and their economy can't really handle that right
now," she said.
Noel D'Souza, general manager of Wildlife Safari in Moraga,
Calif., said there's a chance that new bookings could slow down as
a result of the State Department's travel warnings, but his company
has seen no cancellations as a result of the advisories or the
bombings. One couple, however, did change their tour from east to
southern Africa, he noted. The company also asked clients currently
in Africa if they wanted to return early, and none did, he
Wildlife Safari made efforts to contact all booked clients and
their travel agents and reassured them that "security isn't really
an issue," D'Souza said. She noted that company CEO Trevor
Fernandes is over there now, and is calling in with daily updates
on the situation. "The destination is secure," he said. "One
incident doesn't mean there are bombs blowing up all over." He
added that some clients who said they would maintain their existing
arrangements have commented that "if we give in and cancel, the
terrorists have won."