Fiona Jeffery: Kenya Frenzy shows need for right advice

Fiona Jeffery OBE, Atta Industry Relations Director has written her account on Kenya in the Travel Weekly.

Any news report of an incident abroad fuels consumers’ perception of that destination. When that destination is thousands of miles away, it falls to tourism bodies and the trade to communicate the reality of the situation on the ground for travellers to the country.

Tui’s move to curtail its customers’ holidays from an area of Mombasa, prompted by a recent change in Foreign Office advice, sparked a media frenzy, raising questions over security and effectively portraying Kenya as closed for tourism in some media. 

Kenya Clarification

Last week, Christian Turner, British high commissioner to Kenya, was forced to clarify the situation in response to what he referred to as “false” media reports that “Britain had warned its citizens against visiting Kenya”.

He confirmed: “It is not true that the British Government evacuated its citizens from Kenya last week or that we are telling people that this country is off -limits. Britain only issued a change of travel advisory targeting Mombasa and not any other part of Kenya.”

Kenya received 149,000 British visitors in 2013 and as the destination is rarely self-packaged. Consumers favour booking through travel agents, so having the right knowledge of the situation on the ground is vital.

Damaging reports implying the whole of Kenya was being evacuated will have played an integral part in distorting the image of Kenya in consumers’ image of Kenya. The travel advice for Nairobi – which is 250 miles from Mombasa Island – and any other part of the country has not changed.

Trade Advice

Operators selling Africa, therefore, have rightly told agents that Kenya is still on sale and always has been.

Kenya is undoubtedly a resilient destination, but with tourism such an important contributor to its economy, it’s vital for the travel industry to be armed with the right knowledge so agents and operators can keep selling it.

Organisations such as Atta, Abta, AITO, Kenya’s ministry of tourism and the Kenya Tourism Board can provide advice and information for the trade to fully equip them with all the facts.

It is therefore vital these organisations continue to work together to share updates with the trade and media to dispel any misconceptions of Kenya,  or any other holiday destination for that matter.

A country like Kenya relies heavily on tourism.  It is believed that every worker in the tourism and hospitality industry feeds 20. 

Having visited Kenya many times through my work with Just a Drop I’ve seen the impact tourism investment has. Quite simply, investment and tourism saves lives. 

Kenya is very much open for business, as are Thailand and Egypt, which also continue to suffer from negative publicity. 

There is no reason why agents should stop selling Kenya. In fact, now is the perfect time to experience some of the incredible magic this country holds.

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