The tourism industry in strife-torn Kenya has been dealt a blow from a large number of cancellations from European charter flights to Kenya after the U.K., France, Germany and Italy all issued stringent travel advisories for non-essential travel to Kenya.

U.S.-based tour operators, meanwhile, said they were continuing to see minimal cancellations on their departures.

The travel advisories, including one from the U.S. State Dept., were put in place after violent and deadly political unrest broke out after Kenya's presidential elections in late December. 

 

According to Jake Grieves-Cook, spokesman for the Kenya Tourism Federation and managing director of Gamewatchers Safaris in Kenya, most of the major European charter companies, such as those operated by TUI and Corsair, have a policy of canceling their flights when their governments have issued a strict travel warning.

"These cancellations, they're very much linked to the Mombasa coastal beach resorts," he said, adding that the area is heavily frequented by European tourists, not Americans.

Grieves-Cook said that the Mombasa region had experienced a cancellation rate as high as 90%, and a potential loss to the tourism industry there of around $45 million.

"The longer [the travel advisories are] in place, the longer the hotels at the coast are not able to receive charter passengers, the harder it may be for them to get back," said Grieves-Cook. "If [the advisories are] all lifted by next week, things should be back to normal in a relatively short period."

Already, Grieves-Cook added, Germany and Italy have relaxed the wording of their advisories.

Americans, however, appear to be continuing with their Kenya vacations, despite unsettling news images and reports of bloodshed and civil unrest.

So far, the North American market is averaging about 1% to 4% cancellations on previously booked trips to Kenya, according to Maisa Fernandez, public relations manager at the Kenya Tourist Board.

According to the KTB, the major conflict zones that tourists should avoid are Eldoret, Kericho, Kakamega and Kisumu, as well as slum areas on the outskirts of Nairobi. The KTB emphasized that "these are not areas normally visited by tourists as part of their safari itinerary."

To contact reporter Michelle Baran, send e-mail to [email protected].

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