By Davis Mwandawiro
Tourism in the Coast is literally on its knees following the many terror threats the country has faced in the past three years but recent news on the lifting of travel advisories by Britain could help jump-start the industry. The travel advisories issued by the international front added more salt to an already deep wound. However, following a streak of recent talks and campaigns by the Tourism board, the British High Commissioner, Dr. Christopher Turner, announced that the travel advisories in Mombasa, Lamu and Kilifi had been lifted and tourists and investors had nothing to fear about coming to Kenya. Many of the small traders in the tourism sector were happy with the move.
“We are delighted with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s decision to lift their travel advice for Kenya’s coast from Watamu to Diani as announced today. While our operators have continued to send their guests to the South Coast including Diani, Wasini and Msambweni we look forward to welcoming guests back to Mombasa and the beautiful coastline of Watamu and Kilifi,” KTB managing director Mr Muriithi Ndegwa said.
Kenya received 117, 201 visitors from the UK at the close of 2014 which has been the leading source market for Kenya.
The drop in arrivals compared to 149, 699 in 2013 can be attributed largely to the 14 month ban on non-essential travel. With the re-opening of the area of the Kenya coast north of Mombasa, British consumers will once again be offered a wider beach offering, either combined with a safari in one of Kenya’s 59 national parks or as a stand-alone holiday.
For most of the small scale traders, the lifting of the advisory is a massive sigh of relief. These are the people trading cowrie shells and African attire, carvings, postcards and other mementos.
Cosmas, who runs a shop and a safari company at the Shanzu – Serena area is optimistic that business will pick up for most of the traders. He has braved the decline in tourism though some of his colleagues have not been as lucky as he points out to many closed stalls in the area. There were over 30 taxis in the area but that number is now reduced to a handful due to low business.
Even at the City Mall which hosts a popular Masai market on Wednesdays, the number of traders has fallen massively. Nkatha, blames it on the advisory saying the locals do not spend much on things like carvings, miniature flags and African jewelry. She has seen fellow traders quit the business due to the hardships and start other businesses. Her sales in the last 2 masai markets at the mall do not even reach sh2,000, she tell us.
The government has its work cut out to repair the global reputation that was once the Kenyan tourism. The big players in the industry have quite indeed lost a lot but it is these small scale business owners who suffer the brunt.
They are staying hopeful as tourists have started returning to Mombasa and are hoping that August will be a busy month as they look forward to the December to January peak season.