Britain on Thursday lifted travelling warnings to the Indian Ocean resort of Mombasa, giving tourims the much needed shot in the arm.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) downgraded its the travel warnings issued last year following a series of terrorist attacks in Mombasa and its environs.
“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) no longer advise against all but essential travel to Mombasa,” a statement posted on the FCO website stated. This means that British tourists are free to visit Mombasa, Ukunda, Kilifi, Watamu and surrounding areas, initially labelled as high risk.
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But the British government said it advises “all but essential travel” to areas within 60 kilometres of the Kenya-Somali border, the entire Garissa County, Eastleigh in Nairobi, the entire Lamu County, areas of Tana River County north of River Tana and within 15 kilometres from the Coast in Tana River county.
The announcement follows intense lobbying by governors at the coast and those in whose areas are huge tourist attractions. Kenya, which offers palm-fringed beaches and safaris, has long relied on tourist dollars as a valuable source of foreign exchange.
The drop in visitors has put pressure on the shilling and pushed some hotels out of business. Kenya’s government has criticised the warnings from Britain and other source markets, saying its security forces are successfully thwarting attacks.
Britain helps train and support Kenya’s security forces, along with other Western countries including the United States.
The change was welcomed in Kenya’s tourism sector. “That is very relieving and the best news for tourism this season. The damage is already too big, but the lifting of advisory on Mombasa gives us new hope,” Mr Sam Ikwaye, of the umbrella body Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers, told the Star.