Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt

Posted on May 9th, 2011
Categories: News

I keep hearing it; people talking about how well they are doing, particularly those good to great positive souls in our local tourism industry. It makes me happy to hear all these wonderful success stories, not borne to pessimism; I take what I hear at face value. Oh I of simple mind.

Over the past month or so I’ve heard incessantly of a forthcoming tourism boom in Kenya – it all sounded to good to be true. A little scratching under the surface tended to pour cold water on this red-hot story. I had heard from a good many tour operators and hoteliers of fantastic advance bookings for the coming high season (July – September). Way ahead of last year, which in itself was a year of note.

Now don’t get me wrong, I really want this all to happen, another bumper year yeah! The scratching turned up the following. A local airline manager telling me he was worried about his advance bookings for the peak season from Europe tempered all of this super-heated optimism. ’Down by 40% year on year’ he said. ‘But, but – Mr. Airline Manager it’s a last minute market isn’t it?’ I said. ‘Not so’ he said, ‘leave it until the last minute and you’ll usually pay more’.

The earlier you book the more you save, which we all know when we book our own trips abroad. Abroad, now there is an old world word.

I’ve just received, and this is literally hot of the press, that British airports operator BAA has scaled back its forecasts for passenger traffic at London’s Heathrow airport during the coming peak summer season. The world is in a perilous financial state, which has to negatively affect our tourism industry. Talking of a boom is irresponsible, banging your chest and telling the world how well you are doing is not the sensible option – or is it?

If you keep telling people you are full, they might go elsewhere and might assume that as you are doing so well you might be able to charge above the odds. Talking of which, in a recent World Bank report titled ‘Kenya’s Tourism, Polishing the Gem’ inference is made to the price of our tourism products. As in, we are too expensive against our direct competitors, such as Egypt and South Africa. Not an easy pill to swallow I know, but there is a certain degree of truth in it.

I recently received an independent South African tourism publication, their Indaba 2011 special issue yet. Indaba is the mother of all tourism shows in Africa and is all about Africa, held annually in Durban. The mission of this publication is obviously to promote travel to South Africa as we do for Kenya. I was appalled at the amount of Kenya-bashing in it – with cherry-picked news items both new and old used in a magazine that is unashamedly promoting travel to our southern neighbour. . To whit, a headline ‘World Bank advises Kenya to wise up’, quoting our Tourism Minister when referring to our country’s appeal to the modern day tourist. ’There is nothing inspiring, we are surviving by grace’ he is quoted as saying. This is so obviously out of context and only part of a much longer response I have to assume. Not on, stick to what you do best – travel promotion.

The day of Japan’s horrific earthquake and tsunami I received a press release from the Kenya Tourist Board advising of a tsunami warning for Kenya’s coast. It appears that advice had been received that it was likely, and then it was deemed a good idea to tell everyone, that a follow-on tsunami was imminent as a result of the Japanese earthquake. Friend Mik Kimenzie pointed out to them that geography would make this event impossible as it surely was. Luckily as far as I am aware no news service picked this howler up – thankfully, as it would have been highly embarrassing. Donations of atlases, global wall maps and twirly globes can be sent to the KTB offices in Nairobi sooner rather than later, don’t you think.

I’m done.


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