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Britain evacuates nationals from Mombasa over insecurity

16 May 2014, 08:20

Mombasa - More than 250 British tourists were on Thursday evacuated from Mombasa after London issued travel advisory warning its nationals to stay away from the coastal resorts.

The tourists who were on holiday in the north coast and in the island were transferred to a safer place in Diani, awaiting to be evacuated to Britain through the Moi international airport.

Tourism stakeholders in Mombasa said Britain's Thomson Airline arrived in the Coastal city from London on Wednesday evening waiting to pick up the tourists.

"They (Britons) have been cleared from their hotels waiting to be transferred to Moi international airport," Adam Sheikh tourism executive in Diani South Coast told Xinhua by telephone.

Adam said the British tourists were transferred from different hotels in Malindi and Mombasa and transferred to Diani awaiting evacuation.

Kenya receives more visitors from Britain and tour operators said they feared the new warning could cause a collapse of tourism around the country's Indian Ocean beaches that would last at least the rest of this year.

Analysts had also warned that the warnings are a blow to Kenya' s already troubled tourist industry which relies on foreign visitors, many of whom combine safaris with beach holidays in Mombasa.

Mombasa, the country's second largest city and a major tourist spot is one of various cities targeted by a series of grenade attacks and abduction of foreigners in recent months.

But Kenyan authorities said the nation was playing a pivotal role in ensuring that terrorism and other forms of criminal activities threatening the country's security were minimized if not eliminated.

Kenya's coastal towns are the backbone of the country's thriving tourism industry, which has been hit by the fear of terror attacks and the kidnapping of foreigners by Somali pirates from resorts near the border with Somalia.

Sources said two more Thomson airlines are also expected to arrive at Moi international airport on Thursday night.

"It's a major setback to the industry the UK is portraying our country as unsafe destination which is not true. We appeal to them to rescind their decision," Adam said.

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast branch Executive Officer Sam Ikwaye said the latest ban will greatly affect the industry.

Ikwaye said hotels in coastal region are experiencing 30 percent of hotel bookings due to the drop of tourist arrivals. He said the warning will likely to lead to massive cancellation of tourists.

"With the evacuation that we have experienced, we are looking at a deeper slow down on tourists numbers. This will have a multiply effects on tourism hence massive job losses," Ikwaye said.

The latest British advisory issued on Wednesday extended to areas located five kilometers of the Coast from Mtwapa creek in the North of Mombasa, and Tiwi in South Coast, but did not include Diani or Moi international airport.

Safari and wildlife areas are not affected by the new advisories, but coastal tourism is a mainstay and many tour operators said they feared a collapse in bookings following the warnings.

However, the tourism stakeholders have termed the warning as reckless and ill advised.

Statistics from the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) said about 600, 000 Kenyans are directly employed in tourism, which provides 12.5 percent of the country's GDP.

Ikwaye said "the timing of the advisory, when sector is facing low season will definitely affect bookings leading to cancelation of hotel bookings."

"We appreciate that Britain has a responsibility for its citizens' safety, but really this advisory is alarmist, untimely, and has the potential to shut down all tourism for this destination," he said.

 - Xinhua

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