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Bleak Easter for Malindi, Watamu tourism players

Low turnout or tourists due to the lockdown in five urban counties bad business for hoteliers

In Summary

• Tourism players are counting losses as Easter is a massive holiday in the tourist calendar where travellers throng the Coast to make merry. 

• In Malindi, the majority who patronised the beaches were residents and foreigners who live in the town

A boy plays with sand in the beaches of Malindi during the Easter holidays
A boy plays with sand in the beaches of Malindi during the Easter holidays
Image: ALPHONCE GARI

Bare beaches, cancelled bookings, low tourist numbers characterised this year's Easter holiday in Malindi, Watamu and Mamburui following a lockdown in Nairobi and adjacent counties. 

The Covid-19 control guidelines issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 26 also blocked people from Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos and Nakuru from any travel. 

Tourism players are counting losses as Easter is a massive holiday in the tourist calendar where travellers throng the Coast to make merry. 

In Malindi, the majority who patronised the beaches were residents and foreigners who live in the town.

Beach operators and artists said they had been forced to look for alternative means of survival after the Covid-19 pandemic struck. 

Kennedy Simba, an artist at the Casuarina area, said he lost his job of organising safaris and excursions for tourists.  He was on the beach to commiserate with friends.

“After hard times, it's good to be with friends and family and share the good time even if there is no money,” he said.

Many youths who worked in the tourism sector have ventured into the boda boda business and construction work for survival.

Simba said most of the people hope the government will make an effort to return the tourism industry to normalcy.

He said foreign investors have also been affected as some are still stuck in their countries while tourists are not able to tour the resort town.

“Tourists would love to come and enjoy the natural sunny weather but cannot due to the restrictions imposed by their governments,” he said.

Tourists celebrate Easter on Malindi beaches
Tourists celebrate Easter on Malindi beaches
Image: ALPHONCE GARI

John Mvuko Ndago, the chairman of Break Yakutsi Beach Operators in Malindi, said tourism has highly been affected. The group owns a beach restaurant selling seafood such as octopus, fish and prawn. The group depended on tourism for survival and hopes the situation will change. 

“We thank President Uhuru for opening the economy and urge him to understand the plight of beach operators and other small business people,” he said.

Ndago said their group has 20 members who have different responsibilities from cooks, beach cleaners, waiters and barmen.

“When we started this business there was good income but due to the low tourism numbers caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been difficult for them to survive and cater for their family members,” he said. Ndago asked the government to cushion them against the pandemic. 

Tourists celebrate Easter in Malindi
Tourists celebrate Easter in Malindi
Image: ALPHONCE GARI

Kaingu Supi, a Fanisi band member said artists are unable to get as many gigs as they did because before the pandemic. They are forced to organise free shows in socially distanced venues. 

“We do not get anything. Our sector has been highly affected because there are no shows. Many shows are done online; hotels were closed and we cannot perform to those opened due to the time limit,” he said.

Malindi resident Emmanuel Shukrani said he was happy to celebrate Easter on the beach with many others despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said they have a restaurant and cook all the seafood that people at the Coast love. 

“The number of tourists has gone down. Many prefer to celebrate Easter on the coastal beaches but as you can see due to the Covid and lockdown it has been difficult for them to come and those who were here cannot go back,” he said.

 

(edited by o. owino)