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There’s little evidence Kenya will be able to reach its 2-year tourism target while entangled in political controversies, but growth, albeit not two-fold, is on the horizon.

Kenya’s tourism revenues declined 2 percent in 2012 from a year earlier amid heightened security concerns, Tourism Minister Dan Mwazo said.

Earnings declined to 96 billion shillings ($1.13 billion) from 97.9 billion shillings in 2011, while arrivals were little changed at 1.78 million, Mwazo told reporters today in the capital, Nairobi. The country is targeting 3 million holidaymakers by 2015. Tourism from traditional markets, mainly in Europe, fell “because of security issues,” Mwazo said.

Travel alerts were issued by nations including the U.S. and U.K. following the murder and kidnapping of foreign visitors on the country’s coast and grenade attacks in Nairobi and the northern region. Kenya sent troops across the border into Somalia in October 2011 to help drive out al-Qaeda-linked militants, who threatened to retaliate.

Kenya, the home of wild-game parks including the Maasai Mara in the southwest and Indian Ocean beaches, counts tourism as its second-biggest foreign-exchange earner after tea.

The conclusion of a court challenge to Kenya’s March 4 presidential election should help improve tourism, Mwazo said.

The Supreme Court today began hearing a petition from defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga asking for a new election because of widespread irregularities. Uhuru Kenyatta won 50.07 percent of votes cast, narrowly avoiding a runoff.

The court will either uphold Kenyatta’s victory or order a new election in a ruling expected by March 30.

“After the electoral process has been completed the future is bright,” Muriithi Ndegwa, managing director of Kenya Tourist Board, said during the briefing. “At worst we could perform as we did in 2012.”

Allegations of vote-rigging following the previous election in December 2007 sparked two months of ethnic fighting in which more than 1,100 people died and economic growth plunged to 1.5 percent in 2008 from 7 percent a year earlier.

Editors: Sarah McGregor and Karl Maier.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Ombok in Nairobi at [email protected]. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Shaji Mathew at [email protected].


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Tags: kenya, tourism

Photo credit: A safari car travels through Kenya. Henrik Bennetsen / Flickr

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