Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Racist" hotel chain that turns locals away has changed its mind

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African Safari Club, the downmarket hotel chain and tour operator, long associated with bad labour relations and terrible customer satisfaction, has finally caved in to shareholder pressure and opened the doors of its all-inclusives to locals. Previously, local people were not only not encouraged to visit ASC hotels in Kenya, but sometimes actively ejected from them. And guests were all but barred physically from leaving the hotel compounds to spend some money in the local community. For every satisfied ASC guest, there seems to have been at least one who as a result of his or her experience would never go to Kenya again.

Marketing the group to locals now is an insult to the host community.

If African Safari Club wanted to demonstrate its interest in the local market, it would:

1) start treating its local staff and suppliers according to international minimum standards. (If the company operated like it does in Kenya in the UK, it would be permanently fighting court orders and legal challenges by suppliers and staff.)

2) Then, it might want to plough some of its profits into a marketing campaign for a relaunched African Safari Club dedicated to fair trade and responsible tourism.

If it doesn't do that, the corrrosive effects of the negative PR from thousands of aggrieved customers, staff and suppliers is sure to ultimately bring the company down.

Photos: African Safari Club's deserted Crocodile Camp, outside Sala Gate, Tsavo East National Park Dec 2008 © Richard Trillo

Revisioning Kenya with words

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A powerful piece of performance poetry from a student journalist, Ahmed Kassim Abdi, is reported in the East African, in an eloquent piece by Shalini Gidoomal (14 Sept 2009), attending Revisioning Kenya, a forum looking at how Kenya can "rise from the ashes". They almost tried to take the mic away after he spoke the first line:

"I hear voices in my head.

It's like a multiple personality disorder...where there is nothing but confusion; mixed sounds...all these many, many, many different voices...

Mixed up voices.....

All confused. In my head......

Just like those of our Grand Coalition, who's muddled noise has become a sickness, whose voices disturbs the nation's heart.

I'm a pastoralist, not a terrorist,

Optimist, never pessimist

Creative and innovative, camel and cows my provision,

I'm now in a disorganised house like the tower of Babel, multiple personality, another sad story

I hear desperate multiple voices, I know not why

Abdi! Kenya is burning

Abdi! Nakumatt is burning

Abdi! extra judicial killings

Abdi! I'm starving

I slept, still multiple voices insist!

Abdi! again!"

Reading this, I can hear that "pin-drop silence" that Gidoomal refers to after the audience heard Abdi's first line.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The weather in Kenya

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People regularly ask about the weather in Kenya, and webcams seem a pretty good way of seeing what it's like. There's one in the Ngong Hills, just outside Nairobi that refreshes every ten minutes: But Pinewood Village, down on Diani Beach, has a very lively webcam, basically a jolty live video feed. It's been very sunny most of the day. Does anyone know of any others?