It is now 2 weeks since the British government changed its travel advice for Kenya and for the present time is recommending avoiding non-essential travel to Mombasa Island and an area between Mtwapa, north of Mombasa and Tiwi, south of Mombasa. This is in addition to the pre-existing advice to avoid travel to some of the poorer areas of Nairobi and also areas near the border with Somalia.
The current travel advice (which you can see here) specifically excludes the many game reserves which are most people’s primary reason for travelling to Kenya, as well as stating that the international airports and popular beach resorts including Diani are unaffected.
All UK tour operators with holidaymakers in the affected areas will have moved them to other hotels and resorts as a result of the Government advice, and people due to travel to the affected areas in the future will also have had their arrangements changed.
TUI Travel (owners of Thomson and First Choice) took things a stage further and evacuated all their holidaymakers from the country, and announced that they would not resume holidays to Kenya until November of this year at the earliest. This attracted wide-spread media attention which has led to many people travelling to areas unaffected by the recent government advice to cancel their trips.
So what does this mean for Travel Agents and Tour Operators going forward?
Many companies have taken the understandable decision to stop selling trips to Kenya for the time-being, however the widely-held perception that the whole country is considered unsafe for travel is incorrect. International airlines including BA, KLM, and Air Kenya continue to operate their scheduled flights as normal to Nairobi and Mombasa, and everyday visitors are still enjoying the wonder of a safari in Kenya and relaxing in the beach resorts of Diani.
Travel Agents faced with clients looking for a safari and beach holiday in the next few months might want to consider Tanzania and Zanzibar instead of Kenya...or South Africa or Botswana combined with Mozambique or Mauritius would be another popular alternative. Of course as Nairobi Airport and Kenya's game reserves are currently unaffected, some people might still want to go and see the great migration in the Masai Mara and then head off to the beach in Zanzibar or elsewhere in the Indian Ocean.
It will all come down to a simple rule in the end: follow the government travel advice and avoid the areas that are considered unsafe, and then take advice from specialists in the area before making your own decision on whether you are still happy to send clients to unaffected areas.
Hopefully this situation will be resolved before too long, and we can all go back to selling this fantastic destination without any hestitation what-so-ever.