Published January 13, 2015
Amel Blouza came to Kenya expecting a holiday on white beaches and a safari with a chance to view elephants — or perhaps giraffes lumbering across the picture-perfect savannah.
Instead, she hasn't even left her hotel. She is too scared to venture out as enraged protesters clashed across the country after a disputed election in one of Africa's top tourist destinations.
"I have been spending all the time in my hotel room and could not go out on safari or do anything after getting word from my travel agent that all was not safe outside," said Blouza, a German tourist in Mombasa on the Kenyan coast. "I had wanted to sample what Kenya has to offer in terms of tourist attractions."
Kenya's tourism industry, which brings in some $900 million a year and attracts more than 1 million visitors a year, is sure to take a hit after four days of rioting and ethnic clashes. The United States has warned tourists against all but essential travel to Kenya, and Britain has warned against travel in some areas.
The violence — during the holiday season — has hit resort towns like Mombasa on the sweltering coast, the Rift Valley, and the capital, Nairobi, known for its vibrant nightlife and booming clubs.
"Shops have been looted, vehicles and houses torched and roads barricaded," said Mombasa Police Chief Wilfred Mbithi.
The capital, too, has been a ghost town as the violence rages in the city's slums.
"Every business in Nairobi is now shut down," said Madhu P. Shah, who owns shops in the capital. "If you look at the overall picture, there are huge losses in terms of man hours, in terms of productivity."
"I never thought that would happen to us in Kenya," he added.
Stuart Dickson, a Canadian who was vacationing in Nairobi, said he was cutting short his visit.
"We are leaving early because of the riots and how dangerous it is to be out on the streets," he said Tuesday. "With shops being closed and everything, it is not the best place for a tourist or traveler to be right now."
Lawrence Mwatha, a supervisor at the Nairobi pub The Hood, said the restaurant was closed on what was meant to be one of the busiest nights of the year — New Year's Eve.
"This year we started off on a bad note," Mwatha said Tuesday, as his staff sliced meat in the kitchen.
Some tourists, however, stayed with their plans.
"There is no problem for the tourists unless somebody is looking for some kind of trouble, but otherwise we do not have any problems," said Magda Brzechffa, an American tourist in Nairobi. "We feel secure."