Tourism is a very important industry to the Kenyan economy. It provides huge foreign exchange earnings and employment opportunities for many foreigners and citizens. The average contribution of tourism to the Kenyan economy is approximately 10% of the country’s GDP, while providing 9% of employment.
Between 2011 and 2017 however, there were on average 60 attacks each year by different criminal and terrorist groups, each varying in magnitude. Most of these attacks were perpetrated by Al-Shabaab. This had a huge impact on tourism numbers.
These attacks not only affect the tourists, but they are also felt by a range of people: hotel operators, taxi drivers, food vendors, tour guides and more. In some areas, communities depend on tourists as clients for their curios or because they lease their land to hotel operators.
In the longer term, the country’s competitiveness as a destination becomes compromised.
The government has however been very responsive to the tourism industry and has tried to make improvements. For example, it implemented a program that gave incentives to charter flights and launched an aggressive marketing campaign under Magical Kenya, the tourism board’s platform. It has also highly invested in the security sector and especially with counter terrorism agencies assuring foreign visitors of their safety while on Kenyan soil.
The effort shows. The prevailing sentiment is that the response to the recent Dusit D2 attack was more efficient than during the Westgate attack. But more can be done.
There needs to be better security and monitoring along the Somali border, preferably from a technology standpoint. This is crucial because of the limitations of ground based security forces and physical barriers. International and regional cooperation in intelligence and information sharing will help to improve effectiveness and lower costs.
Ultimately, though, a comprehensive strategy must be developed to deal with the political and ideological sources of conflict that have fractured Somalia. Countries in the region must support Somalia so that it is stable enough to eliminate the threat of terrorism by the Al-Shabaab group