By: AGGREY MUTAMBO
The British government has lifted a travel ban imposed on its nationals against visiting areas of the Coast in Malindi near the Galana River.
In an updated travel advisory, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on Thursday said the 15km width of coastal strip from Galana to Watamu in Kilifi County is no longer high-risk and British nationals are free to tour it.
“Based on our latest assessment, the UK has removed its advice against all but essential travel to within 15km of the coast from the Galana (Athi-Galana-Sabaki) River down to Watamu.
“Malindi is not included in the advice against all but essential travel, nor is Malindi airport,” a statement from FCO said.
The British government stated that the reviewed advisory followed an analysis of the level of risk its nationals could face if they travelled to the coastal areas.
However, much of the advisory remained unchanged.
For example, Britons are still warned against all but essential travel to areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border, the entire Garissa County, the Eastleigh business district in Nairobi, Lamu County and areas in Tana River County north of the river itself.
Moreover, the UK warns its nationals against visiting the 15km width of coastal stretch from Tana River south to Galana.
The FCO had announced a series of travel advisories last year and earlier this year following terrorist attacks at the coast, in Nairobi and in most of the northeastern towns, including the one on Garissa University College in which 148 people were killed. Al-Shabaab acknowledged responsibility.
In June this year, the British government lifted bans on Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale counties, which had earlier been considered risky.
The June decision was welcomed by tourism players, especially since most of the destinations at the coast are in Mombasa, Ukunda, Kilifi, Watamu and surrounding areas.
“The UK recognises the economic impact which travel advisories can have. We would like nothing more than to be able to remove our travel advice for all parts of the country. The way to achieve that is to work together to address the threat of terrorism,” the FCO stated.
Thursday’s move also follows a decision last week by the US government to lift a travel ban it had imposed on US government employees to certain parts of the Kenyan Coast.
It means US government workers can now visit Malindi in Kilifi County, Mombasa and Kwale counties.
“US government personnel are still restricted from traveling to the coast from Malindi north to the Somalia border and from using the Likoni ferry in Mombasa. In addition, US government personnel may visit Old Town in Mombasa in daylight hours only,” the US Embassy clarified to its nationals on Monday last week.
The UK government generally said the advisory does not affect Kenya’s safari destinations in the national parks, reserves and wildlife conservancies, including the Aberdare National Park, Amboseli, Laikipia, Lake Nakuru, Maasai Mara, Meru, Mount Kenya, Samburu, Shimba Hills and Tsavo.
On a normal year, about 117,000 British tourists visit Kenya annually, boosting tourism, formerly the second-highest foreign income earner after tea.
But the sector had taken a beating due to a spate of advisories from the UK, Australia, the US and other western countries.
According to the 2014 Global Terrorism Index, Kenya is the 12th country most impacted by terrorism in 2013.
Between 2011 and 2014, incidents of terrorism in Kenya increased almost two-fold, deaths went up almost seven-fold and injuries nearly tripled.
Over the same period, the national hotel occupancy rate fell by more than 20 per cent.
The US, the UK, Italy, Germany, Australia, France and India are among the main sources of tourists in Kenya.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION