Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt of Travel News

Posted on November 2nd, 2012
Categories: News

I’m told by some that I tend to get carried away with matters that are not strictly travel related, and that after all we are a travel magazine. So stick to the knitting dude…

It’s true, I’ll have to admit, while trying to stick to the knitting – travel and tourism, in this amazing country of ours – I do get carried away on occasion.

Trivial matters to some, such as roads, road users, what infrastructure and such like, do irritate. But hey, I do live here and things can get to you as they would in any other part of the world. There is no place called paradise!

Tourism is in meltdown all over the world, the imploding global economy gets most of the blame and rightly so. Add to that global insecurity, and you get a very unhappy snapshot of an industry that is seriously under stress.

The sky is not falling in – a la Chicken Little, but sadly there is no light at the end of the tunnel as we speak.

Nations who value their tourism industry and its contribution to their economies have taken a pro-active approach. Marketing campaigns that effectively promote their destinations, plus and perhaps much more importantly offering hoteliers and tour operators tax breaks on any international marketing spends.

There is no tsunami effect here, but it keeps the destination front of face in its core markets and also allows the hoteliers and tour operators to use these tax breaks to stimulate their marketplaces and in the end reduce prices. The end result is hoped to be contributions to the country’s bottom line plus, and again more importantly, keeping people employed.

No rocket science here, you’d agree!

When our erstwhile Minister of Fantasy Tourism tells us that tourism arrivals are growing and that ‘This will be a good year’, is he to be believed? How out of touch can he be? Tourism in Kenya has tanked beyond any shadow of a doubt.

You do not have to look far, and this is not particular to any specific area of Kenya, to see closed-down hotels, camps and lodges, with some hotels working at reduced capacity and the ones that stay open enjoying (if that is the right word) occupancy rates of less than 20%. Job-sharing and staff redundancies in the tourism industry are at an all-time high; the trickle-down effect to those living off this industry is massive.

Yet no one is doing anything about it…

Government claims to be cash-strapped, but still spends billions – and not a penny of this is going to tourism marketing for one of the country’s key contributors to GDP and a generator of huge amounts of foreign exchange.

To exacerbate this, we now have a Minister of Tourism who decides in splendid isolation not to renew the contract of the MD of the Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) after the Board had recommended his retention. He then appoints a long-term KTB employee as the new MD, then heads to Mexico for a World Tourism confab. In his absence the acting Head of the Civil Service over rules the Minister and re-appoints the out-of-contract MD.

Chaos in the face of massive adversity is a serious understatement.

Me thinks sombrero wearing Minister will not be happy on his return, and who knows what will happen then.

Our tourism industry will continue to use its own funds as it has done for decades to keep the boat afloat – but the cost of this is sure to be passed on to future tourist arrivals, making our product more expensive and less competitive.

Talking of more expensive, a Tanzanian camp and lodge operator tells me that TANAPA (Tanzanian Parks) is planning to implement a new fee structure for all those employees who work and live inside their parks. The daily rate proposed is TShs. 2,000/- (US$ 50ȼ) per person per day, which might seem a paltry amount – but this operator tells me it is going to cost her company US$ 2 million per annum. All of which has to be passed on to the consumer.

I asked her if there was a strong tourism lobby group in Tanzania to take the fight to government. She wasn’t too sure. When it comes to highways across the Serengeti, yes, she said, with a lot of international involvement; but he was not so sure how effective or interested this lobby group would be given this scenario.

Whatever happens in both Kenya and Tanzania, the price to the consumer of our tourism products is going to increase exponentially, like it or not. Which further adds to our woes of not being able to be competitive in this tourism world of ours.

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