A Kenya specialist agent has hit out at the big two travel companies for being too quick to pull out of the country, needlessly damaging its economy.
Escape2Kenya managing director David Wilson has seen a 70% drop in forward bookings for Kenya this year.
He said the situation had been aggravated by TUI Travel and Thomas Cook suspending their charters in January, despite the relaxation of official travel advice.
He said:“People were under the impression it wasn’t safe because the big operators wouldn’t go there, but many areas were fine.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against all travel to the country but this ban was lifted in January.
Wilson visited the country in February. “It was like a ghost town. Hotels are running at 30% occupancy and shops that depended on the tourist trade are closing. It’s having a huge knock-on effect,” he said.
During the unrest, some of Wilson’s clients changed from charter to scheduled flights. Others decided to visit Tanzania or South Africa instead.
Wilson is starting to receive more enquiries, but he believes it could take at least a year for Kenya to recover.
He called for the trade to support Kenya. “There are some excellent deals, so agents should tell their customers what good value Kenya is.”
TUI Travel will resume flights in July, while Thomas Cook will begin in May.
Thomas Cook refused to comment. A spokesman for TUI Travel said the decision to pull flights to Kenya was made “reluctantly”.
He added: “Simple economics dictate we cannot afford to run empty charter aircraft on long-haul routes.
“We have a duty to our shareholders and customers, not just to destinations.”