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HOTELIERS have praised the decision by the National Environment Management Authority to revise the cost of acquiring waste management licences.

The Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act (EMCA) license introduced by the Environment ministry in 2006 was considered punitive by many hoteliers.

National Environment Management Authority Director-General Geoffrey Wahungu

National Environment Management Authority Director-General Geoffrey Wahungu

All hotels, irrespective of their sizes, were supposed to pay Sh105,000 to acquire licences.

The charges have been revised to between Sh25, 000 and Sh100,000 depending on size of hotel, the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers has said.

Speaking to the press in Mombasa, KAHC Coast executive officer Sam Ikwaye said small hotels are subjected to high operation costs.

„We raised this issue as small hotels used to pay the same amount as five star hotels for industrial waste management. This was totally unfair,“ he said.

The new rates are now categorized according to size of hotels, those with 1-25 beds will be paying Sh25, 000 annually, 25-50 bed occupancy will pay Sh30, 000 and 50-75 beds will pay Sh75, 000.

The association’s CEO Mike Macharia said revision of the licence fees will help small hotels survive harsh economic times.

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The Netherlands has hit out at countries issuing travel advisories against Kenya.

At the same time Britain has denied that it ordered the evacuation of its citizens from the Coast.

Dutch ambassador Joost Reintjes Wednesday said that countries that issued travel advisories against Kenya had blown matters out of proportion. Mr Reintjes said Kenya was peaceful despite isolated acts of terror which could happen anywhere in the world. He said the Netherlands would not issue any advisory on Kenya unless there was a dire need to do so.

“We are not part of those giving travel advisories.”

Speaking at Maseno University in Kisumu County Wednesday, he said he was recently in Mombasa when tourists were advised to leave “yet I could not see any cause for alarm”.

In Bomet, British High Commissioner ChrNetherlands Ambassador to Kenya Mr Joost Reintjesistian Turner denied that his country ordered the evacuation of its citizens from Kenya.

Dr Turner said media reports that the UK had warned its citizens against visiting Kenya due to escalating insecurity were false.

The envoy said his country did not issue a travel alert against Kenya.

Britain only issued a change of travel advisory targeting Mombasa and not any other part of Kenya, he said during the launch of a solar power project developed by British firm Williamson Tea in Konoin constituency.

The High Commissioner further denied that the UK chartered planes to evacuate its citizens. “There has been a lot of noise about the security situation, but 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.”

He said his office was assisting Kenya to attract more tourists and investors from Britain.

“Our government is instead more focused on bringing more jobs, businesses and tourists to Kenya.”

Mr Reintjes said Kenya’s relation with the West was cordial, noting that Kenyan exported most of its produce to Western countries.

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When Western powers, ahead of Kenya’s general and presidential elections last year harped on about ‘Choices have Consequences’ few could fathom the full extent of what Kenya’s supposed Western friends had in store for the country.

Britsch Tourists leaving KenyaWhile publicly eating humble pie and trying to make for a better appearance when those warnings were not heeded by the Kenyan electorate and Kenyatta / Ruto were elected as President and Deputy President, after all ‘business has to continue’ as a Western diplomat based in Kampala put it to this correspondent at the time, were schemes drawn up in the shadowy corridors marked ‘Revenge in Progress’ of White Hall and Foggy Bottom. In a very two faced approach do those same Western powers publicly appreciate that Kenya as a proxy power has helped fight piracy and lawlessness in Somalia, helping to drive the Al Qaida mercenaries out of that country and to other, new battlefields as the recent developments in Nigeria would suggest.

On the other side they keep slapping travel advisories on the country, knowing fully well that those have an impact on employment and foreign exchange earnings and it is revealing that a country which has refined the use of water boarding is now lecturing Kenya to respect human rights when dealing with terror suspects and hunting them down in security dragnets.

Choices have consequences Kenyans were told and as such Kenyans started to connect the dots to see if there is a red line running through the past 12 months since their new government took office. It was a year when the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ was formed, which announced major infrastructure projects and intensified regional cooperation.

That much of the new infrastructure is being financed and undertaken by Chinese companies did clearly not go down well with the erstwhile colonial and world powers as they lost out on the big business opportunities and are likely to lose out too on the newfound oil wealth Kenya has discovered.

Deals were reached in record time with China, which expressly announced during a recent visit of their Premier to Kenya that they do not impose strings to their loans and projects, which, were Kenya to try and do the same deals via the Western dominated World Bank or through bilateral agreements, they would still be in the preliminary stages of getting the right boxes ticked while under the newfound partnership with China construction has in fact started on the new standard gauge railway and the port of Lamu and also other projects.

Choices have consequences indeed and clearly the West cannot be happy that Kenya has been looking East rather than West to support those grand infrastructure plans, perhaps accelerated, driven even by the snub the Kenyatta government perceived as a result of the meddling in Kenya’s internal affairs prior to the elections. Both President and Deputy President remain technically still suspects in the ongoing ICC cases but not only do those cases now appear to be at the verge of collapse but are also increasingly seen as part of a wider Western conspiracy to fix the two to cement Western influence in Eastern Africa and rather have a willing puppet installed as Kenya’s president – which did not only not happen but now apparently backfired in their faces.

Choices have consequences and it is no longer a one way street it seems, giving a rather rude awakening to London, Paris and Washington. Subsequently it seems those are now resorting to measures of last resort, like the public announcements of staff withdrawals from the American Embassy over ‘security concerns’ and the low blow anti travel advisories and forced evacuation of British holiday makers by the British.

Kenyans and East Africans, myself included, mourn the loss of every life of recent grenade and IED attacks, all directed against ordinary wananchi in what I call needle prick attacks, aimed to spread the feeling of no longer being secure, the feeling of panic, despair and despondency. None of those attacks were aimed at foreigners and certainly not British citizens and yet it was Britain which in an unprecedented reaction paved the way through their latest FCO travel advisory on Kenya to more or less instantly evacuate their citizens from their vacation resorts in Mombasa and Malindi while ordering similar measures for British expatriates working or residing in the areas mapped out.

Britain thus put Kenya at par with countries engaged in a civil war or countries where Britain is or was fighting the arguably same war against terror which Kenya is fighting. Kenya however is not Syria, is not Libya at the height of their civil war (during which the West provided an air force to the rebels I hasten to add to tilt the outcome) and Kenya is not Iraq or Afghanistan where the US and the UK fought wars against terror, one based on flimsy fabricated reasons and the other to bring down the Taliban regime which gave sanctuary to the 9 / 11 planners.

Kenya, as witnessed during two visits over the past four weeks, is a country which faces many challenges but also a country which had the courage to stand up to terror and went to hunt down Al Shabab in Somalia. Kenya is now helping to bring stability and a new sense of order to the Horn of Africa, putting the pirates largely out of business by denying them land bases and setting the course of renewed self-determination of Somalis after elections and the establishment of an albeit still fledgling national government.

Kenya joined the African Union and UN forces in Somalia to accomplish those noble goals while taking care of her own security interests to protect the northern borders from constant violation. Not all those objectives have been fulfilled as yet but it would be putting to waste what has been done if Kenya were to pull out from Somalia prematurely, as the Western powers are now doing in Afghanistan and previously did in Iraq.

Kenya today struggles with unemployment, challenges in the health and education sectors, a disturbing crime rate and yet are Kenyans going to work every day, children go to school and the sick get treated even if the standards leave much to be desired.

Kenya today however also remains the country of Out of Africa and of Born Free, inspite of a poaching crisis and Kenya remains the country of Hemingway’s’ Snow on Kilimanjaro and of his exploits to fish for the big Marlins and Sailfish off the coast of Malindi.

Tourism was once the back bone of Kenya’s economy but has over the past two years seen its fortunes erode. Misguided and misdirected government decisions are as much to blame as the nebulous ‘insecurity’ which is being cited by those seeking to make excuses and then hammer the country with anti travel advisories which have accomplished but one thing, to put ordinary Kenyans out of jobs and put investments, by Kenyans and foreign investors at high risk of foreclosure.

No one believes when Britain declares all that is much regretted when in fact it appears that it was just what was intended, to inflict pain on Kenya, to stir a reaction of people versus government. If my experience last week and two weeks prior however is anything to go by, Kenyans may still disagree with their government but will not do the bidding of Western powers to be used as pawns in such power games.

I in fact have repeatedly pointed out serious shortcomings in policy and strategy of the Kenyan government vis a vis the tourism industry. The Kenyatta government, as has the Kibaki government by the way during its last year, has in my view made grave errors of judgment when it comes to tourism and wildlife conservation and I hope those errors can be corrected now that the alarm bells are shrieking nonstop in the corridors of Utalii House and State House following the hasty pulling out of British tourists from the coast. I have not given up hope that the media briefing by KTF two days ago and the media briefing by the Nairobi City County Business Association yesterday will have the Kenyan government at last wake up to reality and take on board private sector demands, restructure the tourism administration with a single dedicated cabinet position including wildlife and natural resources and the formation of a tourism authority, among many other pending measures the private sector has asked for time and again.

Kenya has in the past been the proverbial comeback kid, emerging stronger after every crisis, and while this downturn has reached hitherto unprecedented levels of low occupancies and resort closures, there are rays of hope at the end of the tunnel. Let’s hope Kenya’s tourism gurus this time are well prepared when they meet government officials and can eloquently express the roadmap ahead for a full recovery.

Choices have consequences – and in Kenya’s case it will only fuel and intensify efforts to further explore and develop new tourism markets in the East, in China, Russia and India, key part of the BRICS countries as they are known. For too long did the ‘Choices have Consequences’ only apply in a one way relationship, one that is now undergoing fundamental change. Kenya may right now not be doing too well when it comes to tourism and other sectors of the economy but that notwithstanding, Kenya is standing on her own feet, supported by the members of the Coalition of the Willing and supported by her people who now blame the West in equal parts for their situation as they do, habitually I should add, blame their own government for the present challenges.

That all said, my two visits in recent weeks, and there are more to come, affirmed one thing. Kenya’s attractions remain attractions of global renown, the parks, especially the Masai Mara where in a few weeks the annual migration of wildebeest and zebras will arrive, remain extraordinary place to visit. Nairobi got a range of new hotels which has upped the game in service delivery and the coast has some of the finest beaches and resorts as the World Travel Awards confirm year after year – the new The Residences at the Leopard Beach just being one example when it comes to larger top resorts and places like AfroChic showcasing the boutique resort type one can find for that get away to sand, sun and fun.

Kenya as a destination still got it, needle prick attacks notwithstanding, bad publicity in sections of the international media notwithstanding and as I said before, this is the time for Kenya’s friends to stand up and be counted, and to make it count by going there for a holiday.

Choices have Consequences … it should be remembered in White Hall and Foggy Bottom that this now goes both ways.

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The Kenya Tourism Federation late yesterday issued the following statement, formulating the response of the tourism private sector over the highly-dramatic new anti-travel advisory which the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in short FCO, has slapped upon Kenya. The statement, while dealing with the impact on the tourism industry in Kenya first and foremost, also at last puts the Kenyan government on the spot, something this correspondent has in past months done on a regular basis providing a platform for the many voices who have demanded action from government in vain until now.

PRESS STATEMENT ON THE STATE OF TOURISM IN LIGHT OF THE UPDATED TRAVEL ADVISORIES

The private sector in tourism wishes to state the following in light of the updated travel advisories from some our tourist source markets:

1. We are disappointed by the FCO statement discouraging all but essential travel to certain areas in the country including some parts of the Kenyan Coast. The UK has been a partner of Kenya for many years and is one of our key source markets for tourists. This advisory is a clear indication that impact of this on investments and employment was not considered as a key partner of Kenya. We urge the British Government to reverse this statement.

2. All indications are that the statement was updated based on security related information. As citizens and investors in the sector, we are greatly disappointed in the lackluster reaction and sometimes inaction by Government officials who should be handling this and reassuring citizens, investors and our tourist source markets.

3. We demand that Government gives tourism the importance it deserves. As one of the key sectors of the economy and a key pillar of the Kenya Vision 2030, we feel that the Government just gives lip service to its affairs. Government has to wake up to the fact that its forex incomes and tax revenues are going to take a major hit. Tea prices have already decreased significantly in the international market and tourism which is the 2nd highest foreign exchange earner for the country is facing a major crisis in the wake of its high season. Counties that rely on tourism for its revenues should also take notice that they will not be able to meet their budgets and should factor in at least a 30% reduction in their projected revenues and much more in some counties.

Jobs have been lost and more job losses are on the way. Why isn’t the Government taking this as a serious matter? When a Miraa ban was announced last year, the President of the republic of Kenya himself gave a statement on this. The silence from his office on the state of tourism is of increasing concern to us.

The tourism sector is not only a source of much needed foreign exchange and tax revenues but also a large employer and a consumer of products and services from other sectors of the economy. Its trickle-down effect cannot be ignored. A down turn in tourism will soon be felt in other productive sectors of the economy including Agriculture, food and beverage manufacturing, motor vehicle and many more.

TUI UK CANCELS ALL KENYA HOLIDAYS FOLLOWING NEGATIVE FCO TRAVEL ADVISORY

Only hours after the Foreign and Commonwealth office had issued one of their worst ever anti-travel advisories against Kenya, reportedly over “credible threats” no one in Kenya seems to be aware of in spite of frantic efforts to get to the bottom of the hysteria perpetrated by the British government, did TUI UK cancel their charter series to Mombasa and will now go ahead to “evacuate” several hundred British citizens currently on location in Kenya who booked with them, bringing in several empty flights to take the vacationers home. It was in fact reported from a source in Mombasa that repeat guests denounced the measure and wanted to stay on, but probably will be unable to do so as the tour operators’ staff at the coast explained that there would simply be no further flights to bring them home once the last aircraft has left Mombasa for Britain, leaving them to buy their own tickets at their own added expense.

While “official Kenya” is trying to put a brave face on to this latest hammer blow and is understandably using diplomatic language to express their frustration and exasperation over the immediate fallout of the latest FCO anti-travel advisory, have stakeholders let their anger boil over in a series of comments received, most unfit to be repeated here. News that TUI UK, the British offspring of the world’s largest tour-operations conglomerate had cancelled all their flights into Kenya with immediate effect, will in coming weeks and months affect both beach and safari holidays and will leave hotels, safari lodges and beach resorts ponder what to do next. The move has left Kenyan tourism stakeholders in a state of near despair, as they see the rug pulled from underneath them, feel according to many comments victimized and subsequently making larger scale layoffs now a very likely scenario.

Kenya Tourism“Whatever our government officials now say to the British High Commission, perhaps hoping against hope that Britain might change the travel advisory and the situation can be saved, the damage by and large is done because other countries have already picked up the information and followed the British example. You were right yesterday what you wrote, many of us feel the dots got connected the right way, but what way forward now. What is it the Brits claim to know and have they shared that knowledge with our intelligence services, is there a real threat or just a repeat of those times when the Brits and Americans prohibited their staff in Nairobi to visit Mombasa. Back then they had to eat humble pie and withdraw their statements but if the UK charter is cancelled there is no coming back until perhaps the next winter schedule and even that may be in doubt.

I think Kenya is being singled out for reasons best known to the British government but reality is that this punishes the common wananchi who may now lose their jobs as drivers or guides or waiters or cooks. We feel there are some bad politics to blame on the side of Britain. These are seen as purely punitive measures and honestly, it will widen the rift which is already there since their interference last year before the elections. If we in Kenya ever needed another reason to look east, this is it.”

It is understood from information received late evening that diplomatic efforts are continuing to have the advisory either tempered or withdrawn though going by past experience chances for that are virtually nil.

A number of Kenyan tourism stakeholders will be heading to Germany’s IMEX trade show in Frankfurt next week, trying to tell the world that the destination is by and large safe for tourists while others, returning from the Africa Travel Week in Cape Town and INDABA in Durban had to concede that one of Kenya’s strongest African markets, South Africa, reduced by some 11 percent in 2013 over 2012, making new sales more of a challenge than in previous years.

In contrast is this correspondent’s experience after a second visit to Kenya in a month, which took place the previous day. When walking back from the Kenyatta International Convention Centre to the Sarova Stanley Hotel, I had to walk literally between two picket lines of supporters and opponents of Nairobi Governor Kidero, whose election was overturned by the Court of Appeals. Heckled from both sides, which were only meters apart with security personnel walking up and down the corridor, when asked Muzungu, who do you support,” the answer came straight like a shot “I am from Uganda, I support Museveni,” which caused laughter all round and defused the tension at that spot at least. Walking the city center felt throughout the now four days entirely safe, with no sign of trouble, no harassment by beggars or street kids – I at least did not see any unlike back home in Kampala – and no hotel doorman getting worked up seeing his guests walk out of the hotel, again unlike other places in Africa or elsewhere in the world where they are swift to intervene and urge clients to rather use a cab than walk.

Yes, perhaps the Brits do know something but considering their past record, as is the one of the American Embassy and State Department, this will probably pass like a cloud in the afternoon, now before the sun and then gone. Therefore, my advice is to visit Kenya, take precautions as one would do anywhere in the world to safeguard valuables and look out for potential trouble spots, but by all means come and visit Kenya. Not visiting would be like kicking one already down in the dust into the head, and civilized people just don’t do that.
BY PROF. WOLFGANG H.THOME, ETN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT | MAY 15 , 2014

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Arrivals are down by 12 percent as Kenya’s tourism industry prepares to fight back to recapture key markets

It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Kenyan government and in particular for a Cabinet Secretary under siege, when, as data for the year 2013 were finally released, it was instantly obvious that the targets set for the past year were missed big time. Campaign and inaugural speech promises made had given a clear indication at the time that tourism was to be a priority sector, one which was to create additional jobs by the thousands, attract foreign investments and contribute to economic growth and to increased foreign exchange earnings. Nothing of the sort however happened and to the contrary, few sectors of the economy feel so betrayed by the new government after their first year in office as tourism did, which found itself underfunded and overtaxed while having to listen to speeches which clearly lacked any resemblance of the reality on the ground.

Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie yesterday finally made public the figures as pressure froHotels are emptym the tourism industry in recent weeks had grown over the lack of data and the delay in making them public, to a point that suggestions were made the inexplicable silence served to buy time to doctor figures and ‘beautify’ them.

Having already lost ground in 2012, when in the second half of the year the markets went soft and demands for an instant recovery marketing programme met with stony silence by the powers that were at the time, the trend accelerated in 2013 with a loss of 12 percent in arrivals, down to below 1.1 million visitors from 1.23 million visitors. Revenues, according to the figures given, dropped to less than 94 billion Kenya Shillings, a decline of 2.1 percent, raising eyebrows and prompting more questions over the wide gap in percentage terms of the visitor decline vis a vis the revenue decline.

While Kandie blamed security concerns, a sharp rise in poaching figures, the tax increases and an alleged drop in service quality and delivery, much of that is actually within the domain of government to influence or control, only serving to underscore what the sector has been saying for months now, that it was government inaction on one side and government action like taxation on the other side which brought about these devastating consequences.

Demanded last year already and more vocally asked for this year by the industry was the holding of a national stakeholder forum to take stock and map out the way forward, a call ignored by the ministry, before eventually a tourism recovery advisory board was hastily convened, tasked with creating a road map for recovery, a move described by many as coming the proverbial 5 seconds to midnight after wasting a year.

Leading tourism stakeholders meanwhile have also consulted widely and made a range of recommendations, which cover such diverse grounds as restoring a cabinet post exclusively dealing with tourism, wildlife and closely related departments like natural resourced (forests) and even environment, while fast tracking the overhaul of the tourism parastatals and bring them under one new tourism authority, to cut down on the waste the present structure with several separate entities is causing.