Travel

Kenya welcoming back tourists as peace returns

With a peace deal in place and security almost back to normal, Kenya's beleaguered tourism industry is again welcoming travelers who had abandoned the East African nation after more than 1,000 people were killed in a post-election crisis.

The U.S. State Department as of last week maintained a travel warning against Kenya, citing the threat of violence, civil unrest and terrorism. But even during the recent turmoil, the country's most popular tourist spots, including its beaches and safari parks, were largely untouched.

Two exceptions were Nakuru and Lake Naivasha, which witnessed deadly clashes in January.

After the disputed Dec. 27 presidential election sparked rioting, hotel occupancy rates fell to 10% as tourists fled the country and canceled reservations.

Government officials are rushing to spread the message that Kenya's tourism industry is back. A day after signing a landmark power-sharing deal with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, opposition leader Raila Odinga hit the beach of Ukunda with photographers for pictures of him in short pants and argyle socks, relaxing on a lounge chair.

Many hotels and game drives, struggling to stay open, are offering deals.

"We're seeing some fantastic rates," said Dipa Shah of Phoenix Safaris in Nairobi, www.phoenix-safaris.de.

Officially, most package rates for foreigners have not changed, but Shah said prices at some spots are down 20% to 40%, particularly when negotiated locally. With the usual markdowns during the rainy season of April and May, travel here could be cheaper than it has been in years.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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