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The UK is in talks with Kenya to lift the travel warnings that have crippled tourism and led to the closure of more than 40 hotels at the Coast due to low bed occupancy.
The British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, Thursday said the UK has deepened relations with Kenya’s security forces that could result in removal of the travel alerts issued last year.
The travel warnings were issued in May by Britain, the United States, France and Australia following a string of gun and grenade attacks in Nairobi and Mombasa and Lamu.
“I very much hope that these discussions we are having today…will allow us to look again at the travel advice in new light when we have all the information available,” said Mr Hammond in Nairobi during the signing of a memorandum of association between the two countries’ chambers of commerce.
“I am optimistic that this process of deeper cooperation will help in many areas including possibly looking again at the travel advisory,” he added.
The UK is the leading source of tourist and the alerts saw the tourism sector drop by 14.6 per cent in quarter three, reflecting the poor state of an industry that is one of Kenya’s top foreign exchange earner.
Besides the hotels, tourist support auxiliary sectors like handicraft makers, taxi drivers, fishermen and farmers at the Coast have been affected.
Tourist arrivals in Kenya fell 15.8 per cent to 1.49 million in 2013 as security worries kept visitors away and 2014 numbers are expected to be lower.
Kenya has in the past rebuked the Western countries for issuing the warnings. It called the alerts “unfriendly,” saying they would increase panic and play into the hands of those behind the gun and grenade assaults.
Kenya’s Foreign Affairs secretary Amina Mohamed expressed optimism calling on the UK to lift the advisory citing government’s resolve to combat terrorism and a deepening of cooperation between the two nations.
Thursday’s pact between the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) and the British Chamber of Commerce-Kenya is aimed at expanding bilateral trade volumes. Official data shows that Kenya’s imports from Britain last year dropped for the first time in seven years by Sh2 billion to Sh47 billion.
The country’s exports to the UK dropped for the third year in a row to Sh35.3 billion from Sh37.1 billion in 2013.
– Business Daily