Tourism and politics

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On the 9th of April 2013, Kenya got a new president. There was an air of expectation and excitement about the inauguration of Kenya’s fourth president. It has been a long journey to this day. Kenya held its first election under a new constitution on the 4th of March 2013. This election recorded an 86% turnout which is the best so far, not only in Kenya but in Africa. Uhuru Kenyatta was declared to be the president elect after winning the election. Following a dispute over the elections by the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy, Raila Odinga, their presidential candidate contested the results and the matter went before the Supreme Court. On the 30th of March 2013 it was determined that Uhuru indeed was the rightful winner of the elections.

The tourism sector in Kenya was negatively affected by the elections. In 2007/2008 there was post election violence after the elections were disputed. This caused a great crisis in the tourism sector. The reputation of Kenya as a safe and conflict free country to travel to was damaged. This time around international tourists were cautious about coming to Kenya before, during and after the elections. The international media as well seemed to be expecting violence this time around and came prepared to report on this.

Kenyans learnt their lesson after 2007/2008. Messages of peace were everywhere, both on TV, radio, the newspapers and social media as well. This time citizens were determined to keep the peace. This time round there was peace after the people voted and as they waited patiently for the results to be announced. As Kenyans saw in 2007/2008, violence does not only destroy neighbourhoods and communities but also negatively affects the economy. Tourism being a key sector of the Kenyan economy. Tourism is Kenya’s second largest source of foreign exchange earnings after agriculture.

The tourism industry performed poorly last year with earnings and visitors declining by 2%. This was partly due to pre-election jitters and the economic crisis in Europe. Tourism in the first quarter of this year was also very sluggish. Many international tourists opted to go to neighbouring countries for their holiday travel. Following a successful, peaceful election we expect that the tourism sector will bounce back. President Uhuru’s speech filled the people of Kenya with a spirit of optimism and hope that the future of Kenya is bright. Kenya looks forward to more tourism bookings this year, both from the international and local market as well.

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