Kenya: Beach harassment cited for dip in coast tourism
Posted by African Press International on September 4, 2016
MATHIAS RINGA -1 | Jumapili, Septemba 4, 2016
The Government has been asked to build designated markets for beach operators as a lasting solution to endless harassment of tourists on coastal beaches.
The long-standing menace has been cited as one of the major challenges affecting tourism in the region with tourists nowadays preferring to go to the Caribbean islands and other African beach destinations for sunbathing on the beaches.
Hoteliers say holidaymakers can never enjoy relaxation at the Coast as thousands of beach traders prowl the beaches forcing visitors to buy their merchandise.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast branch executive officer Sam Ikwaye said on Sunday that unless harassment of tourists was contained on the beaches, the region will continue to lose potential holidaymakers.
Serena Hotels managing director Mahmud Jan Mohamed called on the government to address the thorny issue by building markets for the beach traders.
He said beach menace had scared away tourists resulting to the low number of international tourists across the Coast region.
“Time has come for the government to address the thorny issue once and for all so that beach operators can sell their curios elsewhere than doing business on the beaches,” he said.
The Serena Hotels boss called on the government to construct markets in the counties of Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale to rid the beaches of traders.
“Once the markets are built, hotels will allow their guests to go there and buy curios for the traders to earn a living,” he said.
Mr Janmohamed noted that if the beaches are free of traders, it would help attract many tourists to the region and revive the industry.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala urged the coastal county governments to formulate laws to address the issue.
He praised Kwale County for having passed a tourism Bill in support of regulating beach activities to address harassment of tourists.
“Other counties with beaches must borrow a leaf from Kwale by developing legal framework to regulate beach activities,” he said.
“We want the beaches to be places where tourists can soak up the sun or enjoy leisure walks without disturbance from traders,” he explained.
Mr Balala said the government would look for land in Mombasa in efforts to build designated markets for beach traders for them to sell their items to prevent trade on the beaches.
In a recent tourism meeting, a Tourism official who wished not to be named due to sensitivity of the matter, said they had faced difficulties in addressing the menace due to political interference.
When the Tourism ministry was planning to get rid of the huge number of traders on the beaches, he said, local political leaders opposed the move.
“We were told by politicians that we should never touch the beach traders as they vote for them,” he revealed.
Although the Tourism Regulatory Authority issued licenses to 300 beach operators in Mombasa the number has soared to over 2,000.
Kwale County’s Tourism executive Adan Sheikh, said they trained beach traders on how to handle international visitors as part of efforts to address harassment of holidaymakers.
Hotels in Diani, he said, were also supporting beach traders by organizing special days for them to sell their curios to their guests in a bid to contain harassment menace.
“Following the cooperation between the county, hotels and traders cases of harassment on the beaches have waned,” he said.
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