Foreign missions’ assessment of Kenya’s crisis may not be accurate, tour operators have said.
Through their umbrealla body, the Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO), they are blaming the current image crisis on the missions, who they claim have exaggerated the concerns on insecurity.
The misrepresentation, the association says, has previously depressed and now threatens the survival of the tourism sector.
Mr Duncan Muriuki, the KATO chairman, took issue with an embassy that, he said, issued an advisory asking its nationals to stay indoors whenever in Kenya for their safety.
“Such advisories amount to economic sanctions against Kenya as no tourist or tour operator has encountered any form of hostility or had been subjected to any form of violence,” Mr Muriuki told journalists at the Lake Nakuru National Park.
They urged tourists to ignore the advisories and visit Kenya to enjoy the country’s rich resources.
“All the roads leading to Nakuru Town from Nairobi are safe. We urge tourists to ignore the advisories and enjoy the rich wildlife in the Park,” Mr Charles Muthui, a Senior Warden in charge of the Lake Nakuru National Park, said.
The tour operators were in a team of tourism stakeholders led by the Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) boss, Dr Ongong’a Achieng’, who toured the Lake Nakuru National Park following a fire razed 50 square kms of pasture.
He said the travel advisories were hurting poor innocent Kenyans who derived their livelihood from tourism related activities.
He cited groups such as curio dealers, hotel workers, tour guides and farmers who had been greatly hurt by the drop in the number of tourists.
Mr Muthui said the number of visitors to the park had dropped sharply as a result of the advisories issued by some foreign embassies in Nairobi.
Prior to December, the park with close to a million flamingoes, more than 100 black and white rhinos and more than 400 bird species was receiving an average of 600 visitors daily and earning about Sh1.6 million.
But due to negative publicity, gate collections at the park have gone down to about Sh120,000 daily, less than a tenth of normal revenue.
Dr Ong’ong’a added that Coast Province, Mombasa in particular, had been hard hit by the drop in the number of tourists visiting the area.
The park’s management said the fire that lasted three days did not destroy the park’s leading attractions.
“We have not encountered carcasses of any big game such as buffaloes, giraffes, lions, leopards, rhinos, impala or gazelles, but it is possible that smaller animals could have perished in the inferno,” said Mr Muthui.
The first fire started at the Soysambu Ranch on Thursday, but another started at Nairobi Road village outside the Park on Friday and continued burning until Saturday afternoon when it was contained by a team of KWS wardens and Kenya Army firefighters.
The loss of pasture , however, is likely to result in severe overgrazing.