Kenya’s tourism industry remains resilient despite the shock of an attack at the Dusit2, a boutique hotel housed in a complex on Riverside Drive in Nairobi, where gunmen breached the security-controlled gate at 15h00 Kenyan time on Tuesday (January 15), leaving causalities.
Kenyan security forces promptly responded to the incident, believed to have been a terror attack reportedly carried out by Al-Shabaab, while hundreds were evacuated to safety.
According to Mohammed Hersi, Chairman of the Kenya Tourism Federation and Group Director of Operations at Pollman Tours and Safaris, the attack was isolated to one complex (Riverside Drive Complex), and the rest of Nairobi is calm, as is the rest of Kenya.
The buildings affected by the attack on the complex have since been secured, confirmed Kenya’s Interior Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Fred Matiang’i.
Speaking at a press conference, Matiang’i said: “I can report that the country is secure, that the nation remains calm, that Kenyans and all of our visitors are safe and should feel free to continue going about their normal businesses. The situation is under control, and the country is safe.”
The sentiment was reiterated by Murray Gardiner, Co-Owner at Giltedge Africa saying: “Security has been heightened in and around the city, but calm and normalcy has returned.”
Matiang’i went on to pay tribute to the support and collaboration of the international community in standing up to terrorism.
We stand in solidarity w/ the victims & loved ones in #Nairobi 🇰🇪 after last night's attack.— World Tourism Organization (@UNWTO) January 16, 2019
Tourism is a lifeline for #Kenya, bringing 1 million+ visitors annually & $900 million in GDP. We pledge our support to #Kenya & will be enhancing efforts for African tourism this year. pic.twitter.com/IyX8n2LfaV
“Terror and tourism don’t go together but we are also very happy that in less than 24 hours the attackers have been neutralised and hundreds of people given safe passage by the Kenya forces special squad,” said Hersi.
Jimi Kariuki, MD of Sarova Hotels & Resorts and Chairman of the Kenya Tourism Board, said acts of terror were also a major threat to countries that rely on tourism as a major driver of their economy. “Kenya is one such country where tourism is our second-largest source of foreign exchange in the formal sector.
"2018 was an excellent year for our tourism sector, as announced recently by our Tourism and Wildlife Ministry. 2019 is looking very good in terms of projected visitor arrivals. Incidents such as the one in Nairobi yesterday do indeed threaten our tourism industry. Though terrorism is global and no country can stand up and say they are 100% safe from terrorism and crime, we are engaging with our overseas suppliers to reassure them that all is well in Nairobi and in Kenya and the tourism industry continues to operate as normal," explained Kariuki.
According to a statement released by the African Travel & Tourism Association (Atta), the Kenya Tourism Federation confirmed that all means of transport were operating normal schedules, including the international airports in both Nairobi and Mombasa, including the train connection between Nairobi and Mombasa. “We are also happy that all tourist circuits across Kenya are operating normally,” read the statement.
“We have not experienced any cancellations since the rest of Nairobi and all other parks are fine. Even the Riverside Drive complex is being cleared and will reopen for business sooner than later,” added Hersi.
Frederik Schäfer, Sales and Marketing Manager of Severin Sea Lodge and Severin Safari Camp, told Tourism Update: “We don’t see any direct effect with regard to cancellations or amended tour programmes. We look to the future with a positive attitude and this devious attack should not influence Kenya’s great development with regard to new tourism demand.”
“Though we have received some messages of concern, which is normal, we have not experienced any booking cancellations. What is important for us when incidents of this nature happen is that our overseas business partners stand with us. I am happy to say that so far we have received nothing short of messages of support from them,” concluded Kariuki.
Whilst Kenya is open for business and Nairobi calm, travellers are urged to keep an eye on travel advisories for more information, as many foreign countries have since updated travel advisories for citizens.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated its travel advisory, however it does not include Kenya’s safari destinations in the national, reserves and wildlife conservancies, including the Aberdare National Park, Amboseli, Laikipia, Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara, Meru, Mount Kenya, Samburu, Shimba Hills, Tsavo, nor does it include Moi International Airport (Mombasa) or Malinidi Airport, and the beach resorts of Mombasa, Malindi, Kilifi, Watamu, Diani, Lamu Island and Manda Island.