Hoteliers urge Kenya and UK to end travel restrictions standoff

By Peter Leshan
Thursday, April 8th, 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta. Photo/PSCU
In summary

About 780 tourists from the United Kingdom who had planned to stay in various hotels in Masai Mara Game Reserve and later visit the coast between this weekend and the end of the month have reversed their plans after the government announced that they would be quarantined for 14 days and also undergo Covid-19 tests at their own cost.

Travel agents and hoteliers estimate the cost of the cancellation at millions of shillings, pleading with Kenya and the UK to end the standoff between them.

Beginning tomorrow (Friday), all travel from Kenya for its residents and those transiting through the country to the UK will stop.

The UK says the decision was informed by the fact that there are Kenyans who carry and transmit the lethal South African Covid-19 variant.

The UK has also issued an advisory to its citizens against non essential travel to some parts of the coast and north eastern Kenya because of fear of attacks by Alshabaab militants.

Lilly Waddington, the proprietor of UK-based Magical Safaris Limited said her company was to handle 433 British citizens upto the end of this month, but they have cancelled after Kenya hit back, adding that the standoff is not good for revival of tourism, which has been in doldrums for the last one year.

“Considering the fact that the UK is Kenya’s biggest tourism market, the country will lose millions of shillings if the matter is not amicably resolved.

It’s sad that it is happening when we expected that the tourism sector is going to be revived following the ongoing vaccination against Covid-19 worldwide,” she told Travelwise.

Theophilus Shumwe, the general manager of Tipilikwani Eco Camp in Masai Mara says 11 tourists from the UK who were planning to visit the establishment this  week for four nights have cancelled, lamenting that dependence on local tourism was not sustainable and asked the two governments to lift travel restrictions.

“High taxes and the current lockdown of Nairobi and other four counties conspired to keep locals and other tourists away from Kenya’s hotels and tourists attractions,” says Shumwe, adding, “When we thought that the world is opening up after vaccinations, the two countries started wars, which will at the end of the day make Kenyans lose livelihoods.

The two should swallow their pride and let its citizens travel unhindered,” he says.

Patrick Wanjohi of Into Africa Eco Travel company Limited says that the Kenya-UK relationship is not symbiotic and that Kenya needs the UK more now to jumpstart its tourism sector, lamenting  that the current situation doesn’t augur well for investors and the country’s economy. 

“UK is Kenya’s biggest market. The sovereignty issue should be put aside for the sake of survival of economy, which has been battered by the virus and high fuel prices,” says Wanjohi.

Most hotels in the Mara and the neighbouring Serengeti National Park, Selous  and Ngorongoro in Tanzania have been closed because of would be visitors contracting the South African Covid-19 mutant. 

“The situation in Tanzania is worse. Serengeti and others, which were operating when Kenya resorted to lockdowns last year, are now out of business because of the fear of the new variant,” said Nick Murero, the Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem Coordinator for Lake Victoria Basin.

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