By JAKIM BEIJING—A tour operator in Kenya is closing its doors after a security breach, as the country’s tourism industry struggles to cope with rising demand for the countrys popular tours.
Tour operators in the country have been hit by a surge in tourists from the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates, and Asia and Africa, which are vying for tourism dollars.
“The company has made a conscious decision to close its doors and it has been due for closure for several weeks,” said Mappamonda Tour Operator Limited, the operator of the popular Elba tour company.
Mappamondas website says it is closing “due to security concerns,” but the company did not give further details on why.
Elba, the second-biggest tour operator and one of Kenya’s most popular, has been struggling to keep up with demand, as it has seen its number of international guests drop by 20 percent in the past two years.
Its website says the company is planning to offer a special ticket in a bid to lure more international guests.
“We have been operating under very difficult circumstances,” Elba Tour Operator said in a statement.
“The company is deeply concerned about the security of our staff, our visitors and of the company’s facilities.”
The statement added that Elba is planning a voluntary closure on March 18, the day of the New Year, which would allow the company to close for “timely and uninterrupted repair work”.
The Elba company has struggled to attract tourists and in the last three years has lost nearly half of its global tourist arrivals.
In January, the company said that it had closed four of its seven tour operators in six countries in the Middle and Central African countries and was planning to close another in Ghana.
Tourism has become one of the biggest issues facing Kenya’s economy.
It accounts for more than 70 percent of the countrySomalia has the highest number of visitors, with more than 1 million, followed by Egypt, Libya, and Egypt’s eastern Sinai region.
Last year, Kenya saw more than 4,200 people killed in the conflict in the troubled North Sinai region between Islamist militants and security forces.
Elma Mappambo, Elba’s director of travel and tourism, said the company had no immediate plans to reopen after the March 18 closure.
Mapperi said it was working on securing security guards and will have an announcement to share soon.
“It will be a tough decision for our visitors, but I am certain that we will reopen,” Mapperi told Reuters.
“People are coming to Elba because it’s one of our favourite destinations and we want to show the country that it is safe to visit.”
The Elma Mapperis website also said the tour operator would provide an alternative ticket with additional amenities to attract more guests.