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September 25, 2013

Conferences Continue as Planned in Nairobi

While the world watches to see the ultimate results of the weekend's terrorist attacks in Nairobi, two major conferences are continuing as planned in Kenya's capital city.

On Tuesday, the Sustainable Tourism Conference began in Nairobi, just days after terrorist attacks in the East African capital. The conference will bring together more than 500 professionals from around the world, including representatives from national and regional ecotourism associations, NGOs, ecotourism business owners, national and local governments, park and protected area services, academics, host communities and indigenous peoples' groups. The conference is organized by The International Ecotourism Society. 

The opening keynote speaker was Costas Christ, an award-winning editor and columnist for National Geographic Traveler and one of the world's top sustainable tourism experts. Christ also serves as the Ambassador at Large for the Spirit of Big Five Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Big Five Tours & Expeditions.  
Big Five Tours, a 40-year-old tour operator with roots in Kenya, released a statement voicing support for the conference yesterday. Mahen Sanghrajka, the company's CEO, and President Ashish Sanghrajka have been providing their travelers and prospective travelers with up-to-date information on the recent attacks, responding to security concerns and confirming all clients currently visiting the country are safe. 
Sanghrajka called the conference "an important event [that] is an important way to advance best practices in sustainable tourism." 
At the same time, David Scowsill, President & CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, spoke at the at the Africa Hotel Investment Forum. "Circumstances of such shock and grief can lead to a natural inclination to stop [and] cease activities," he said. "I commend the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation for their decision to continue as planned and I am heartened by the great attendance at this conference. I am happy to have this opportunity, along with all of you, to show Travel & Tourism’s support for Kenya.  This is not ‘business as usual’ without respect for the tragedy and loss, but a recognition that business must go on."

Scowsill said that the attacks should not be allowed to negatively affect tourism to Kenya. "We cannot allow events such as these to stop the business of Travel & Tourism. It is a business which creates jobs, drives GDP growth and stimulates investment," he said, calling travel and tourism "a weapon in the war against terror." 

The tourism industry is the second largest source of foreign revenue in Kenya, earning $1.13 billion in 2012, according to the Kenya Tourist Board. Scowsill added that Kenya's tourism industry represents one in 10 jobs and can expect more than $7 billion in investment over the next 10 years. 

"It is crucial in these situations that a country remains open to tourism," he added. "The message has to be clear – tourists are welcome and safe in the destination, and they will have the positive experience they desire."

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About the Author: Jena Tesse Fox

Jena Tesse Fox





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