US Revises Travel Alert, Lists Kenya As A Kidnap Hotspot

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The United States government has listed Kenya among the global kidnapping hotspots in a new risk indicator that Washington has introduced for travel advisories.

The latest move adds yet another hurdle to Kenya’s tourism sector.

The Department of State, which is in charge of foreign affairs, said Tuesday that the new assessment measure was been informed by cases of “kidnapping and hostage taking by criminal and terrorist actors around the world”.

Some 35 countries including Kenya have been slapped with updated advisories that include the risk of kidnapping.

US was the leading source of foreign tourists to Kenya last year when earnings from the sector jumped 37 percent to Sh157 billion — which is the biggest increase in more than a decade.

“The new “K” indicator is part of our ongoing commitment to provide clear and comprehensive travel safety information to US citizens so they can make informed travel decisions,” the US foreign office said in a statement.

Tourists in Kenya

The world’s largest economy periodically issues country-specific caution to its travelling citizens based on assessment of risk factors such as crime, terrorism, civil unrest, natural disasters and health.

Nearly half of the affected countries (16 in total) where the US citizens will get regular reports on the risk of being abducted are in Africa.

Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi are the only countries in the six-nation East African Community (EAC) bloc that have been spared the kidnapping risk indicator in assessing the safety of US travellers.

Kenya is joined by its EAC peers Uganda and South Sudan on the list that also includes north-neighbouring Ethiopia.

The new risk indicator come a day after President Donald Trump called on Uganda to find kidnappers of a US tourist and her Ugandan driver released last weekend by their abductors after a five-day ordeal.

Kenya is yet to find an Italian charity worker, Ms Silvia Constanca Romano, who was abducted in Kilifi County on November 20, 2018.

The 2013 travel alerts reduced the flow of tourist dollars, a valuable source of foreign exchange, put pressure on the shilling and forced some hotels out of business.

The industry has since recovered following improved security and aggressive marketing in foreign capitals.

Earnings dropped from Sh94 billion in 2013 to Sh84.6 billion a year later, following the Westgate attack. It then rose to Sh157 billion last year from Sh120 billion in 2017.