Tourism Slump has had a devastating effect on low income earners leaving many mouths dry and pockets empty, hearts broken, and people worried. Mr. Matira sells sea shells on the cliffs just behind Fort Jesus. He has had only two customers in a week, who bought two shells each costing sh80 (about US$1). He has three children and his wife sells shell necklaces outside the fort.
“This is bad for me and my family. Usually, at least three people came daily but now, no one is even stopping by,” he explains dejectedly.
Mr. Matira is not alone in this. Many of the small business people have been hit hard by this decline in tourism activities. They include tour guides, snack vendors, dancers, artists and food outlets.
In a desperate measure to keep his stomach full, Salim turned into an ‘easy job’.
“I used to be a tour guide. I would show tourists the good places around and the good food courts.”
Unfortunately, this slump in tourism has left him high and dry. He turned to pick pocketing and learned that it was an easy job, until an angry mob busted him and clobbered him, nearly killing him. He spots hideous marks from the ordeal.
Young women who made bead necklaces, shell earrings and other house decorations have also quit. Tired of sitting out in the sun for weeks with nothing to show for it, they have decided to look for greener pastures. Shariffa, a pretty girl aged 21 tells her tale of how a man approached her and showed her a ‘better living’ all she had to do was “work” at night in a club. On a good night, she makes sh2000.
The small cafes that made sweet food and entertained visiting tourists have long shut down. The hawkers who walked around with African art all over them have been reduced to vending water and handkerchiefs. Painting shops and antique stores are also running at a loss.
The beaches are empty and the people who rent out floaters and skis are sleeping hungry. A man with a glass bottom boat sits sorrowfully in his boat by the shore, occasionally glancing up hopefully, only to be disappointed.
Duba, a camel owner who works along the Bamburi and Shanzu beaches tells of nights when he sleeps hungry as he can go for days before selling a camel ride. Even when he gets a customer, the prices are bad.
When these low income earners suffer, the whole county suffers. Since they form a large part of the consumer party, they are unable to buy basic commodities which in turn leads to a slump in exchange of goods and services hence little money flow hence slow economic growth.
Additionally, the low income earners are most likely to turn to vices due to their low skill base and fewer employment options. Already, the crime rate in parts of Mombasa has shot up in areas that were previously deemed safe such as old town. Also, desperate youth will easily fall to manipulations of extremists and further exacerbate the radicalisation problem. Of the 30, 000 jobs lost due to the tourism slump, a majority are in the semi skilled cadres. This will push more into poverty and endanger the lively hoods of entire families.
Already, the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) has set aside sh140 million for a global advertising campaign that will see Kenya advertised to markets in Europe, America, Asia and Africa.
To revive numbers in the coast market, Kenya Tourism Board intends to boost charter flights to Moi International Airport.
“We shall partner with tour operators, charters and airlines for special offers with a view to creating interest for visitors to travel to Kenya,” said Muriith Ndegwa, KTB Managing Director.
In the meantime, more people slide into desperation and what is left is a little hope that these efforts will bear fruit as soon as possible.