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Travel firms cancel trips to Kenya amid unrest

world Updated: Jan 04, 2008 07:17 IST

AFP
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Major British travel operators have joined firms in other countries who have suspended trips to Kenya because of unrest there, as cancellations threatened to badly hurt the African nation's economy.

The suspension yesterday for at least two days came after the Foreign Office advised against all non-essential travel to the East African country, where hundreds have died in clashes since disputed elections.

Britain has strong ties with its former colony including through major tourist trade. About 6,000 Britons are believed to be currently travelling in Kenya, including some 3,000 on package holidays.

Tourism is a pillar of the country's economy, with officials estimating that there are currently tens of thousands of foreign guests in Kenya.

Faced with cancellations and repatriations, police and the state-run Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) said security had been boosted at tourist hotspots in the coastal region and popular inland safari destinations.

"We are on top of things and ensuring that all tourists are well protected," said police spokesman Eric Kiraithe.

Any cancellations will hit Kenya's economy hard, experts say, recalling the impact of 2002 terror attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania.

"Tourism plays a very important part in Kenya's economy," said Frances Tuke of the the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).

"UK numbers did dip after the 2002 terrorist attack but Kenya is once again a very popular place for Britons, particularly during our winter. Any suspension of holidays there will have huge commercial implications.