Tourism hardest hit as political rows drive businesses to losses

The political crisis in the country has adversely affected businesses, including car importation and hospitality sectors, and also eroded investor confidence at the coast.

Players in the three main sectors driving the region’s economy said the hardline stance by politicians from the two rival camps will create more confusion as the country heads to the October 26 repeat presidential poll. 

They urged President Uhuru Kenyatta (Jubilee) and opposition leader Raila Odinga (Nasa) to hold talks to save the situation.

Kenya Association of Hotel keepers and Caterers Coast branch executive Sam Ikwaye said political rhetoric and the ongoing anti-Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) protests spearheaded by the opposition were destroying Kenya’s credibility as a tourist destination.

“Bad politics is not good for tourism and a volatile environment is not conducive for tourists, hence affecting the industry.

PROTESTS

Political utterances and protests have hampered investor confidence. Tourists are withholding their money until the environment is safe,” said Mr Ikwaye.

Speaking to the Nation, the hotelier warned that if the situation persists, hotels will shut down for lack of customers and hundreds of workers will be rendered jobless.

Mr Ikwaye said some hotels have experienced cancellation of bookings, especially conferences, adding that domestic tourism is also on the verge of collapse.

He said the region was gearing up for the high peak travel season but the political uncertainty will negatively affect it.

“Kenya risks being slapped with travel advisories if the demos continue. Farmers will also be affected because they will have no market or hotel to supply their produce. My advice to Kenyans is to stop giving politicians credibility,” he said. Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry official Rukia Rashid said traders were worried.

 “Will we have a country in the next two weeks? The demonstrations are worsening the situation. We need peace,” she said.

SALES DECLINED

Car Importers Association of Kenya chairman Peter Otieno said  motor vehicle sales had declined  by 60 per cent.

“September, October, November and December is always a high peak season for our business. Some 15,000 plus vehicles can be imported in the month of December alone but right now Kenyans are not buying vehicles,” he said.

However, activity at the Mombasa port, which serves landlocked Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, has been steady.

Kenya Ports Authority spokesman Bernard Osero said business was normal.

“The offtake is normal. We have trucks coming to pick up cargo and customers clearing their goods. The systems are on, ships are coming and workers are working. The demonstrations have not disrupted our business,” he said.

During the August 8 elections, business slowed at the port as transporters pulled their fleets off the road over post-election uncertainties.

Fears of unrest heightened when Mr Odinga disputed the tallying of the vote.

VIOLENCE

“On voting day, we recorded a low turnout of trucks. But all the 21 berths have now been occupied and we are offloading ships,” said Mr Osero.

At the height of the 2007-08 post-election violence, importers in Kenya and within the region incurred massive losses after their cargo was either delayed or stolen along the Northern Corridor.

Uganda, Rwanda, the DRC and South Sudan were starved of supplies with parts of the Northern Corridor cut off and the railway line vandalised.

In Kwale County, the chairman of the business community, Mr Richard Onsongo, said most businesses had scaled down production and that investors were holding onto their finances due to the uncertainty over the repeat presidential election.

SUFFERING

“Businesses are already suffering as a result of the protests,” said Mr Onsongo, urging the two rival political groupings to dialogue for the sake of the economy.

The proprietor of Baracuda Store in Kwale town, Ms Swabah Hood, said her business has been adversely affected by the political standoff.

“Yes we have stock to sell but there are no customers to buy our products,” she said.

The transport industry has not been spared either.

Kwale Matatu Owners Association chairman Joseph Wambua said daily collections have remained low. “There is  no circulation of money in the county as was the case before the elections,” he said.

Additional reporting by Fadhili Fredrick and Raymond Zaka

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