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Last Updated: Friday, 16 May, 2003, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Kenya tourism workers fear for jobs
By Kariuki wa Mureithi
BBC News Online

The indefinite suspension of all British flights to and from Kenya is just the latest in a number of setbacks that have hit the country's tourist industry.

Kenyan beach
Some 100,000 British tourists visit Kenya every year
Tourism is one of the country's main foreign exchange earners, making up about 12% of the East African country's economy

Only six months ago suspected suicide bombers attacked an Israeli-owned hotel on the Indian Ocean, causing panic and cancellations of holiday bookings.

And now major tour companies say if the suspension continues for long the economic impact will be massive.

the management is already talking about retrenching us.
Frederick Mboka
"We were caught totally unawares. Luckily we've only had a few cancellations so far. But if this goes on the tourism industry and the economy in general will be hard hit. There is no doubt about that," says Bushra Sultan, manager of Nairobi's Somak Travel.

About half a million Kenyans depend on the travel industry for a living.

Of these some 300,000 work directly in the industry, while about 200,000 work in other sectors which benefit from it.

British connection

100,000 British tourists visit the East African country each year, bringing in about $50m annually.

The suspension of British flights means the impact could be widespread.

"Tens of thousands of Kenyans - hotel workers, dancers and safari drivers - will lose their jobs if the suspension continues for long," says Jake Cooke, Chairman of the Kenya Tourism Federation.

British Airways has daily flights into and out of Kenya daily, ferrying passengers and cargo.

Employees of cargo handling companies, especially those engaged on a part time basis - are worried.

"I work for a cargo off-loading agency and the management is already talking about retrenching us," says Frederick Mboka who works for a company engaged by British Airways to off load cargo at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

"I am afraid I might lose my job, yet I have a family and other people who depend on me."

Last November suspected al-Qaeda assailants fired two missiles at a charter aircraft carrying Israeli tourists as it left the Kenyan port city of Mombasa.

The missile missed its target, but a few minutes earlier a vehicle packed with explosives smashed into a hotel north of Mombasa, killing 11 Kenyans and three Israelis, leading to massive cancellations of holiday bookings.

The suspension of British flights will cause even more worry to players in this key Kenyan industry.

East Africa's security nightmare
15 May 03  |  Africa
Avoid Kenya, US warns
15 May 03  |  Africa

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