Tourist arrivals to Kenya tumble over security concerns

Tourist arrivals to Kenya tumble over security concerns
With camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios, wildlife rangers in Kenya's Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary prepare for night patrol in the "war" against poaching.

NAIROBI - International tourist arrivals to Kenya fell 13.6 per cent in the first half of this year, following a string of attacks blamed on Somali Islamist insurgents, official figures showed Thursday.

Official data from Kenya Tourism Board said arrivals totalled 428,585 in the six months to June compared to 495,978 visitors over the corresponding period last year.

Compared to 2012, the total arrivals for the January-June period fell 24 per cent.

"The numbers have spoken; we performed very badly due to the insecurity experienced, especially at the Kenyan Coast," Sam Ikwaye, executive officer of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers, told AFP.

"We have lost the whole year", he said, explaining that the forecasts for the remainder of 2014 "are not looking good".

On the Kenyan coast, the scene of recent killings, hoteliers said business is "even worse than the figures show." "We are operating at 60 to 70 per cent down compared to last year," said Harald Kampa of the Diani Sea Lodge and Diani Sea Resort.

Tourism is critical to East Africa's largest economy, generating some 11 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and accounting between 9 to 10 per cent of employment, according to Kenya Tourism Board.

Kenya has suffered a spate of brutal attacks, especially on the coast, since last year's Nairobi Westgate mall siege, where 67 people were killed.

Somalia's Al-Qaeda linked Shebab insurgents claimed responsibility for the attacks, including the assault on the Westgate mall.

Following the attacks several Western nations urged their nationals to avoid the port city of Mombasa. One British travel firm evacuated hundreds of package tourists.

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