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Kenya’s tourism industry heading into peak season

As the high season for Kenya’s tourism industry sets in, Dinfin Mulupi interviews John Cleave, chairman of the Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association (MCTA)

John Cleave

John Cleave

As we head into the peak tourism period, what are your expectations for this season?

Coast Province tourism arrivals have not yet recovered to the 2007 levels of 300,000. MCTA hopes that 2011 will see a return to that level. The Kenya Tourist Board’s ‘Jambo’ [advertising] campaign [have been] a huge boost.

Regarding the diversification of Kenya’s tourism sector, will we be seeing more tourists visiting areas other than the traditional sites like the Maasai Mara and Coast Province?

Diversification is one of the policy pillars of the tourism ministry. Golf carries considerable promise and can be incorporated in all three planned tourism cities under [the government’s] Vision 2030 [plan].

Coast Province

Coast Province

There is already an active deep sea fishing sector at the coast and billfish are a major attraction for fishermen from around the world.

Infrastructure and investment in drainage, roads, power and water supply hold back much diversification.

Now that the long awaited new Mombasa ferries have finally arrived, should we expect increased arrivals at the south coast, which can only be easily accessed by ferries?

The ferries have never been a solution for Diani and the south coast. They are an inadequate status quo. When they underperform they bring chaos. When they work they limit development. The Dongo Kundu bypass is an essential prerequisite for south coast development.

The good news is that Kenya Ferry Services has repossessed grabbed land and, if provided money, can . . . widen the landing ramps and operate two ferries side by side. This has become essential.

Tourists participating in water activities at the Papillon Lagoon Reef resort, situated on Diani Beach.

Tourists participating in water activities at the Papillon Lagoon Reef resort, situated on Diani Beach.

How do you think is the government performing regarding tourism, especially with the creation of resorts and increasing the number of tourist arrivals?

Vision 2030 was dealt a cruel blow [with] the 2007 post-election violence. In a sense we are still recovering from the aftershocks. The government does not invest in essential services such as water, power, drainage, waste management, roads, railways, ports, industry, and higher education. Without these investments all forms of service and industry are artificially held back.

The government should not invest into tourism per se. It should invest for all our futures to build the nation. Tourism happens to be an industry that is a major export and it is infinite. It is easily developed with the minimum training. The government has never really demonstrated an understanding of this simple fact.

What are the current challenges for tourism stakeholders in Coast Province?

[Coast Province] has many tourism challenges. Water supply is a major constraint. Power costs are too high. Road repairs are poor and few new roads are [being] built at the coast. Drainage is very poor and there are no signs of urban planning. Despite a friendly and sympathetic face, our local councils are incapable of providing residents [with] essential services as there is no money or it is unwisely spent.

Beach harassment [of tourists] is a major deterrent to expansion as it gives negative publicity. Of greater concern is the industry’s refusal to agree [on] a solution. Hotels often refuse to spend money for beach patrols and the Ministry of Tourism pays lip service to the tourism industry. Without a solution, [Coast Province] tourism will continue to fail to pick up momentum.

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