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No Impact Kenyan tourism makes no gain from Obama visit

President Obama’s visit was expected to boost Kenya’s profile and limit the damage caused by the travel advisories issued by Western nations following Al-Shabaab militant attacks that scared visitors awa

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President Obama in Kenya

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Foreign visitor arrivals dropped 24.1 per cent in August, defying expectations of increased travel following the visit of US President Barack Obama in July and a United Nations conference in Mombasa.

Related: > Sustainable development Mahama, Obama to address UN Summit today

Official data shows the number of international visitors stood at 70,878 in August, down from 93,427 the same month a year earlier, and 78,243 in July.

President Obama’s visit was expected to boost Kenya’s profile and limit the damage caused by the travel advisories issued by Western nations following Al-Shabaab militant attacks that scared visitors away.

Related: > GE Reports Why the US export-import bank matters to Africa

The Treasury hoped Kenya would earn dividend from the visit, the first ever by a sitting US president to Kenya, and said holiday inquiries had risen ahead of Obama’s arrival on July 24.

“Though still down, it is much better compared to numbers witnessed six months,” said Mohamed Hersi, the CEO of Heritage Hotels and chair of Kenya Coast Tourist Association (KCTA).

Related: >Africa's new—and more reliable—opinion poll: How long the lights stay on

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data shows that international arrivals through Moi International Airport in Mombasa fell to 7,546 in August from 10,962 in the same month last year, but rose from 5,728 in July.

The month of August is the peak period for the annual wildebeest migration at the Mara River.

President Obama was in Nairobi to attend an entrepreneurship conference.

Related: > Powering Africa GE and partners announce new renewable energy projects

“All these obviously will boost tourism and give more support to the exchange rate and we see the (weakening) trend that has happened over the last few months reversing because of the positive developments with the visit,” Treasury secretary Henry Rotich said days before Mr Obama’s visit.

KNBS shows foreign visitor numbers fell 18.3 per cent to 496,519 in January to August, a signal that the sector is far from recovery.

Kenya has hinged recovery of the sector on a Sh5.2 billion marketing plan. The promo will see a marketing offensive in Western capitals in an effort to woo tourists back to the beaches at the Coast, and the game parks.

Following last year’s terrorist attacks, Britain, the US, France and Australia issued travel warnings to their citizens which saw a decline in tourist numbers and led to the closure of more than 40 hotels at the Coast due to low bed occupancy.

Other hotels have seen management and staff take pay cuts of between 20 to 30 per cent to avoid layoffs.

Besides hotels, tourists support auxiliary sectors like handicraft makers, taxi businesses, fishermen and farmers have also been affected.

Source: Business Daily Africa

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