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Kenyan travel agents count losses running into billions as cancellations pile up

Nairobi's stature as a hub for East and Central Africa is fast-eroding as high-level corporate meetings relocates to other countries.

The agents who addressed the media on Monday blamed the violent encounters between protesters and police for the Sh1.5 billion ($14m) loss through cancellations in the past two months and tipped the amount to double.

Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) chief executive Nicanor Sabula said the future looked bleak as tourists continue to cancel air and hotel bookings.

“With average monthly ticket sales of about Sh5 billion, the industry has in the last two months lost about Sh1.5 billion worth of sales. This could rise to over Sh3 billion if the current impasse is not quickly resolved,” he said.

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Their fortunes have further been hurt by the government recent move to ban official travel, which contributes up to 60 per cent of domestic sales.

“To redeem Kenya’s global image, violent demonstrations that have been met by fierce State security force must be stopped to instill confidence in our visitors and investors. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his rival Raila Odinga must hold peace talks for the sake of providing a political solution to the current impasse,” said Mr Sabula.

Nairobi's stature as a hub for East and Central Africa is fast-eroding as a result with global agencies and firms that largely contributes to cross-border travel business, putting on hold activities in a wait and see scenario until the Kenyan coast is clear.

Cancellations have largely come from delegates intending to attend the UNAIDS Global Prevention Coalition Meeting and the 2018 Africa Nations Championship, among other high-level corporate meetings that have since relocated to other countries.

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“Overall, air ticket bookings have dropped by about 10 per cent from Sh1.7 million to Sh1.5 million for the period ending September compared to same period last year. October could record a drop of more than 50 per cent,” said Mr. Sabula.

Moreover, advance bookings for air tickets and hotel accommodation for the December holidays have also been cancelled, leaving local firms with huge debt as they grapple with requests for refunds.

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