Tourism and terrorism

By | Category: Travel rumblings

empty deckchairA fortnight ago, the editor of The Star – one of Kenya’s most influential newspapers – wroteThe painful fact is that until Kenya stops featuring in global media headlines for the wrong reasons, no amount of money spent on marketing will help reverse the decline in our tourism sector.”  This comes under the category of stating “the bleeding obvious.”

This comment happened before Foreign Office advice was issue warning people about holidaying in parts of Kenya. Immediately after that advice was issued, the Kenyan Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary, Karanja Kibicho, issued a statement say, “visitors are assured to utmost security and safety while in Kenya.” Mohammed Hersi, chairman of the Mombasa and Coast Tourism Association was quoted in The Star as saying, “…Mombasa remains a safe holiday destination compared to other parts and cities of the world.”  And Sam Ikwaye of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers said  – according to the same newspaper – that “Mombasa is safe. …Kenya is safe.”

Well the would say that, wouldn’t they.

They are right. To a degree. No-one is ever completely safe and no government and organisation can provide a 100% guarantee of safety. So why do tourism officials suggest they can?The most they can do is suggest they will do their best and leave it to the traveller to decide what the “best” actually means. Obviously some countries have better intelligence, better resources and better emergency services than thers. If you are travelling well off the beaten track you would have fewer services available to you than if you were in a big, industrialised city. Most of us will just consider this as common sense.

Terrorism, violence and criminal acts happen. So why do tourist officials always paint the best picture? Because the media plays on it; they prefer to report “bad stories” rather than “good” tourism officials will argue. And that, unfortunately, is largely true. So tourist officials tend to say that everything is rosy and no problems exist hoping that some misguided fool might believe them.

Visitors can recognise the truth and may well appreciate someone being honest. I am reminded of a story I wrote about Bangladesh earlier this week. Motiur Rahman of Bengal Tours,  said “when people think of my country they only think of floods and natural disasters.” “Not that it isn’t true,” he went on to say. “But it’s unfair.” And that was  because it didn’t give the whole picture.

Let’s have some more honesty like Rahman’s from tourist connected organisations. And some from the media as well.


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