OUR TRIBE CHALLENGE RECENT MISCONCEPTIONS OF KENYA
In a spirit of openness and free flowing information, We Are Africa and our Kenyan Tribe members have come together to provide a mythbusting panorama of the latest political upheaval affecting the African tourism landscape. Kenya has been at the mercy of a recent wave of negative representations in the press, and in view of the mounting headlines we wanted to give our people, our professionals and our Tribe a voice. We sincerely hope this will help to promote a well-informed industry, for the situation to shift peacefully and all suppliers across Africa to be able to return to showcasing Kenya’s beauty throughout the world.
Great Plains Conservation
I’m trying my best to present the Kenyan safari industry and its unique experiences as business as normal, as are other Kenyan stakeholders, but naturally tour operators and their clients have concerns, especially when they hear bad news reports and the only words that register to them are ‘Kenya’ and ‘killed’.
I’m trying to get across that it is not only is the presence of fewer tourists harming the safari industry and especially the coastal resorts, the lack of tourism trade is affecting communities and the wildlife that tourism depends on. Tourism plays such an integral part of not only business, but also conservation and community development.
If there was ever a time to go to Kenya, it is now as security is stepped up even in areas where it wasn’t really necessary. And when these instances of insecurity subside, tour operators will be best placed to pick up the demand for the country as they would have travelled and had feedback from their happy clientele. The industry could think creatively if it is mainly the Kenyan coast that is of concern: Kenya Airways flies regularly to beach destinations such as the Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar, for example, so if it’s a Kenyan safari combined with beach it is still an easy option.
I firmly believe the #WhyILoveKenya campaign to be an effective and modern antidote to any negative news stories that come out of Kenya. Kenya bad news stories get magnified sometimes as a result of all major international media having their African base in Nairobi.
Almanara Luxury Villas
I believe the media paints a much bleaker picture than is the reality in Kenya. Having been born and raised in the UK, I spend May and June there as we close Almanara for the rains, and even having lived in Diani (Kenya) for over 7 years now, even I began to wonder how bad things had gotten. The picture is one of a war-torn nation embroiled in some kind of terrorist invasion, which frankly is not true. Having returned to Diani, it’s as peaceful and safe as I left it. There are issues from time to time (not targeting tourists), but those are no more or less than any country in the world during these times.
We have struggled to hold on to a lot of UK bookings (previously our number one source market) for the holiday season (July, August, September). We have some good agents fighting on our behalf, but have seen a drop in enquiries from overseas. Fortunately we have a strong resident market from Nairobi and other parts of Kenya and these clients continue to travel to Diani for their holidays.
I believe many players within the travel network are already showing huge support for Kenya. The country seems to hold a place in many people’s hearts, from the booking agencies and large ground operators down to the clients themselves. But more can always be done. The large package operators (First Choice and Thomson) pulling out in May are an example of how not to help the situation.
It is perfectly safe to travel around most parts of Kenya. Common sense would have me recommend avoiding the Somali border, but I don’t want to create any negative press for the operators on the northern tip of our coastline. I think flying into NBO and heading into the game parks, before coming into Ukunda (Diani Beach’s airstrip), is a safe and fantastic itinerary for clients today.
Cheli & Peacock Safaris
For the high-end ‘travelled’ customer, repeat customer and tour operators that have knowledge and really know what they are doing, there is not too much of a problem. Those that have already booked and have spoken to us are relaxed. The misconceptions in the marketplace mean that new bookings are very slow. UK and Australia markets have been hit hardest because of the their alarmist press.
The travel network can support Kenya by talking to us and making sure they have their facts clear and detailed, so that they can answer any negative queries. Also passing on the message that Kenya is busy with happy clients.
For a wildlife and safari destination, Kenya is second to none. It has more ecosystems, species, and density of wildlife than any other country in Africa, coupled with world-class boutique lodges. It is hard to beat.
It is important to be visible in the industry, but in a different way from how it was done in the past: we need to be visible where the clients really are, not where they were… so it probably pays to be visible in Moscow, more than in London right now.
What makes Kenya such a popular destination is a combination of two powerful facts: 1) Kenya invented the safari; 2) Kenya is now the most advanced country in the area of community-based tourism. So we are both the past and the future.
It’s difficult to say where I would not recommend. Maybe I would recommend not to go to Lamu (even if I’m planning to go myself very soon, actually) and to avoid Mombasa town, but the rest of the country is totally safe. Basically, it is like saying to avoid the New York underground at night: yes, ‘clever’ suggestion, but obvious at the same time. Where we operate, Samburu and Masai Mara, are two of the safest areas in the world.
Alex Walker’s Serian
The biggest misconception about Kenya currently is that the entire country is unsafe to visit. If the same scale of reaction to violence were to happen in the case of somewhere like London or New York, no one would visit these destinations at all. It’s a matter of separating hysteria from the reality of the situation: buying into the terror of terrorism and withdrawing from Kenya only gives greater shrift to the power of terrorism, and triggers a vicious cycle.
The travel network continues to provide support by continuing to promote travel to Kenya – leading by example is the strongest message that can be sent, and every bit of positive feedback about holidays in Kenya helps to counter the negativity in the media, and to show that this is a destination that still has countless incredible experiences to offer… And, of course, writing about it is wonderful, but actions speak louder than words: get out there and travel!
The positivity of the #WhyILoveKenya campaign in and of itself – regardless of what is being contributed – is what we have found so deeply impressive, because it is testament to the resilience and strength of the Kenyan spirit. And, in the face of hard times, this is the best possible message we could be sending to the world.