It was learned overnight from a Nairobi-based senior tourism stakeholder that the British government and High Commission in Kenya has significantly reduced the “off limits” advice, which was in place for visits to the ancient coastal town of Lamu, Kenya.
Previously, the area was up to 150 kilometers from the Somali border, reaching well beyond Lamu itself, but has now been trimmed to only 60 kilometers, to which all but essential travel should be avoided.
The Lamu tourism trade has welcomed this development and hailed the progress made by the Kenyan armed forces, which have, since the hit-and-run attacks by Al Qaida affiliate Al Shabaab last year, gone deep into Somali to clear the country of militants and pirates, and is now working as part of AMISOM, the UN and AU mission to bring peace to the Horn of Africa.
Not changed in language or substance, however, were general advisories to British travelers intent on going to Kenya about the general threat of terrorism in Nairobi and Mombasa in particular, something other tourism sources immediately took issue with. Said one regular contributor: “We had a few isolated incidents since our army went after those terrorists in Somali, but nothing has happened to any tourist hotel or resort, because security has been stepped up very much since then. Kenya has learned some big lessons, and hotels and resorts, even restaurants, have individual additional security in place, which is greatly improved since last year’s events in Lamu.
“Of course, we are telling tourists to be observant and vigilant wherever they travel on safari or on excursions from their resorts. But this is no different from what visitors to London are told also, to be observant and vigilant. Many travel advisories are only in place because the foreign offices fear legal repercussions if they do not overstate warning, and visitor numbers show that tourists know about these connections. They still travel and we are grateful for that.”
Good news nevertheless for Lamu and the nearby resorts, which will have renewed hope now that 2012 will make up for the losses sustained when tourism literally came to a standstill, and good news for Lamu and its cultural and religious festivals, which will undoubtedly be sellouts once again.