CONFUSION

Kenya's tourism sector monitoring Thomas Cook's collapse

The firm has for decades been a key contributor to Kenya's tourism industry.

In Summary
  • Collapse of the 178-year-old operator has now worried local hotels, travel agents and tourist lobby groups.
  • Kenya Tourism Federation says it is monitoring the local market to find how many tourists and entities have been affected.
Passengers leave an airplane with the Thomas Cook livery at Manchester Airport, Manchester, Britain September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Phil Noble
Passengers leave an airplane with the Thomas Cook livery at Manchester Airport, Manchester, Britain September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Kenya tourist industry operators are not clear of the short and long term effects of the collapse of giant UK Travel firm - Thomas Cook.

It is also uncertain how many visitors are currently  in the country courtesy of the agent.

The company's collapse has affected between 350,000 and 450,000 customers abroad, with some currently in Kenya. Majority are Britons.

 

“We are still trying to put the numbers together and find out how we are going to send them back home,” Kenya Tourism Federation(KTF) Chairman Mohammed Hersi told the Star in an interview.

A number of guests are stuck in hotels as they cannot afford to pay bills and arrange their return flights back home.

"We  need to be accommodating but also have bills to be paid," Hersi added.

Kenya Association of Hotel keepers and Caterers(KAHC) said the fall of one of the biggest travel agents could have an impact on international visitors to Kenya.

“It is a disturbance to the sector particularly for hotels. We have lost a significant contributor of traffic to the region,” said KAHC executive officer Sam Ikwaye.

Baobab Beach Resort general manager Sylvester Mbandi said: “We are monitoring the situation, for now its is too early to gauge.”

Mbandi, the immediate former President of Skal International (Kenya), a global association of travel and tourism professionals, however said Thomas Cook charters have not been flying to Kenya, hence the impact could be minimal.

 

“They had hoped to start flying back either this winter or next summer,” Mbandi noted.

Thomas Cook declared bankruptcy on Monday after failing to secure a much needed $250 million( about Sh25.9 billion) bailout from private investors to save it from collapsing.

 Thomas Cook which also insured travelers has for decades been a key contributor to the local tourism industry through direct and agency dealings, as UK remains a top international market source.

UK is Kenya's fourth top source of tourists, according to Tourism Ministry data. Between January and June, arrivals were 79,655, a drop compared to 81,108 recorded in a similar period last year, Tourism Research Institute data shows.

The firm has been forced to shut travel agencies, leaving the group's 22,000 global employees jobless.

The collapse comes after it reported £1.5 billion (Sh193.9 billion) loss in May, blamed on a decision to write down the value of My Travel, the business it merged with in 2007.

British government and Civil Aviation Authority are reported to be working on a repatriation programme that will fly at least 150,000 holiday makers back to the UK, having chartered 45 jets.Thomas Cook's airline had 94 planes.