TER­ROR­ISM CHAL­LENGES IN AFRICA

Tourism Tattler - - SAFETY & SECURITY - By Josephine Wawira, Jo­vago

The ho­tel in­dus­try goes hand in hand with ex­cel­lent se­cu­rity, as it is an in­te­gral part of the ho­tel's suc­cess. In modern day, ho­tels in­vest heav­ily in se­cu­rity mea­sures, given that lack of it can ren­der both guests and staff sus­cep­ti­ble to a glut of per­ils; not to men­tion dam­ag­ing the ho­tel's re­pute. Nev­er­the­less, ho­tels of­fer­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion in high se­cu­rity threat re­gions, de­spite their in-house ac­qui­es­cence such as use of CCTV and cam­era con­trol, face per­va­sive risks which re­quire pro­fes­sional han­dling to avoid es­ca­la­tion.

The re­cent at­tack by al-Qaida at a beach in Grand Bas­sam, Ivory Coast, was a big blow to the West African coun­try's ho­tel in­dus­try, with ef­fects likely to foil the gov­ern­ment's tar­get of 1 mil­lion tourists this year. Re­ports show that over the past three years, the Ivo­rian gov­ern­ment has in­vested 151 bil­lion CFA, ap­prox­i­mately $266,000 in ho­tels, in a bid to im­prove the in­dus­try and re­vi­tal­ize tourism. At­tacks by gun­men in a ho­tel in Oua­gadougou, the cap­i­tal of Burk­ina Faso ear­lier this year, plus other ter­ror­ist at­tacks and po­lit­i­cally in­sti­gated con­flicts across African coun­tries such as Mali, So­ma­lia, Bu­rundi, Chad, South Su­dan - Juba, Cen­tral African Repub­lic and north parts of Nige­ria such as Borno; con­tinue to un­der­mine the African ef­forts of tap­ping rev­enue from the ho­tel and tourism in­dus­tries.

While com­bined ef­forts from the United Na­tions Mis­sion in So­ma­lia (AMISOM), the gov­ern­ment of So­ma­lia and other or­ga­ni­za­tions of good will to re­store peace and se­cu­rity in the war torn coun­try are seen to be gain­ing mileage, se­cu­rity con­cerns re­main in­evitable with fre­quent ter­ror­ist at­tacks from the no­to­ri­ous Al-Shabaab mil­i­tant group.

Jazeera Palace Ho­tel is one of the most pop­u­lar ho­tels lo­cated in Mo­gadishu, So­ma­lia. The ho­tel bore the weight of ter­ror in Mo­gadishu af­ter it was struck by a sui­cide bomber in July 2015, caus­ing mas­sive de­struc­tion. In the af­ter­math of such a ma­jor se­cu­rity in­ci­dent, in any given sce­nario, causes in­cred­i­ble loss of prop­erty and in some cases loss of life and life­long in­juries. Huge rev­enues are also lost to com­peti­tors who take ad­van­tage to ad­vance their busi­ness while the vic­tim takes time to re-build, if at all.

Speak­ing to Jo­vago.com, Mr. Jus­tus Kisaulu - the Gen­eral Man­ager of Jazeera Palace Ho­tel, which re-opened in Novem­ber 2015, notes that the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in So­ma­lia and specif­i­cally Mo­gadishu is im­prov­ing day by day. “De­spite the neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity we get, some­times we may go for months with­out any ma­jor in­ci­dence. Crime and ter­ror­ism has been largely de­terred by mount­ing road blocks at var­i­ous roads, in­tel­li­gence led op­er­a­tion and pro­fes­sion­ally train­ing

the po­lice force among other mea­sures,” he ex­plained.

Jazeera Ho­tel is a proof of re­silience and op­ti­mism of the ho­tel in­dus­try in the face of ter­ror. The ho­tel's oc­cu­pancy rate re­mains high at roughly 80%, host­ing mainly busi­ness peo­ple, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tions, for­eign diplo­mats and NGOs. Kisaulu ac­knowl­edges that guests re­main con­cerned about their se­cu­rity when on tran­sit, prompt­ing Jazeera to pro­vide ar­mored ve­hi­cles to mit­i­gate the level of risk.

The ho­tel in­dus­try in Bauchi State in North­east Nige­ria has also reached its nadir from be­ing tar­geted by Boko Haram in­sur­gents. In spite of the spate of in­sur­gency, Bauchi is be­stowed with rich nat­u­ral as­sets, be­ing home to Ankara Na­tional Park and some of the best ac­com­mo­da­tion fa­cil­i­ties in the area. Juliet Okere, the man­ager of Poly­con Guest Inn in Bauchi, says the pres­ence of se­cu­rity per­son­nel in the re­cent past as a panacea to the in­sur­gence men­ace has gone a long way in bring­ing calm in the state, thus boost­ing guests' con­fi­dence to tour the area.

Re­mark­ably, Juliet cred­its lo­cal Nige­ri­ans for their trust and con­tri­bu­tion in restor­ing the ho­tel in­dus­try in the re­gion, which has for years been de­bil­i­tated by the pres­ence of Boko Haram. While un­cer­tain­ties sur­round the fu­ture of the in­dus­try in Bauchi and other Nige­rian states such as Borno which are still writhing against the in­sur­gents, Juliet, like many other ho­tel stake­hold­ers, re­mains op­ti­mistic that col­lec­tive ef­forts will show light at the end of the tun­nel.

De­spite the se­cu­rity chal­lenges, the ho­tel in­dus­try is de­fy­ing all odds to re­main rel­e­vant and com­pet­i­tive. In­ter­net up­take in these ter­ror­ism prone coun­tries has also con­trib­uted highly to rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing the sec­tor, with the use of on­line book­ing plat­forms such as Jo­vago and Ex­pe­dia; which en­able trav­el­ers to book their ac­com­mo­da­tion on­line. Ac­cord­ing to Jazeera's GM, “In­ter­net in these coun­tries is so cru­cial be­cause of the in­crease in In­ter­na­tional guests and does re­duce hu­man move­ment within the city, thus re­duc­ing risk of be­ing tar­gets. This is the driver of the busi­ness now and in the fu­ture.”

A re­port by the In­ter­na­tional peace In­sti­tute shows that, while last year saw Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa over­come a num­ber of im­por­tant chal­lenges, it also saw the con­tin­u­a­tion and of­ten the cre­ation of so­cial, po­lit­i­cal, and eco­nomic ob­sta­cles that will de­fine the con­ti­nent's se­cu­rity out­look in 2016. Hope­fully, con­certed ef­forts to cur­tail ter­ror­ism will pave the way to writ­ing a dif­fer­ent script, with a pos­i­tive out­look for the ho­tel in­dus­try in re­gions with high se­cu­rity threats.

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