Malindi tourism players decry low business

Investors call for Covid rules adherence to tame spread, allow lockdown easing

In Summary

• Malindi relies heavily on tourism but since the pandemic there has been no foreign tourists.

• Travel restrictions on five counties has affected the local tourism which was beginning to gain momentum

Tourism investors in Malindi want the government to continue enforcing the strict Covid-19 regulations to prevent more travel bans from other countries.

Already, the UK has imposed travel restrictions on Kenya and there are fears that the US could do the same.

Italian community spokesman Freddie di Curatolo said they are worried about the third wave of Covid-19.

He said last year they incurred huge losses in their hotels due to the pandemic and the problem is worsening.

Curatolo said the banning of  UK tourists from visiting Kenya together with the plan for the US to do the same, will have negative repercussions to the sector.

Speaking in Malindi, he said they hope Italy will not issue such sanctions for Kenya and called on the government to continue issuing strict measures to reduce the spread.

“Kenya is now in the spotlight worldwide due to the increased cases of Covid-19, regulations in place need to be strictly adhere to otherwise the other countries will reopen in the next few months leaving us out,” he said.

The Italian spokesman said Kenya received very few tourists from Italy because they banned tourists from travelling except those who own private homes.

“We received some visitors who were well aware of the Ministry of Health protocols, the problem was when the visitors come and see that people are not adhering to the set regulations such as wearing face masks, they also stop following the rules and this fuels the virus spread,” he said.

Curatolo said investors in Malindi are following the protocols including the curfew and always wear masks to prevent the spread of the pandemic.

Philip Matei, the owner of Sabaki centre which houses key tourism businesses including the famous Barbar restaurant, said tourism has really been affected by the pandemic.

He said most tourists visiting Malindi were from Italy but have been unable to visit due to the pandemic and this left the sector dependent on domestic tourists.

However, the recent travel restriction on five counties of Nairobi, Kiambu, Machakos, Kajiado and Nakuru has affected local tourism. 

“Due to the lockdown, tourism has gone to almost zero and in addition to that we are having many challenges due to cleanliness. We need to utilise this period where there are no visitors to clean up the town and make it visitors friendly  so as to attract more people to the area once the travel regulations are lifted,” he said.

Hemingways resort Watamu general manager Melinde Rees said the domestic market picked well after the country was reopened at the end of June last year.

She said a lot of Kenyans were coming to the Coast for holidays.

Rees said the pandemic has brought a lesson as it has proved how incredible the country is for residents to explore.

“For us, it has really been a bonus because the pandemic pushed Kenyans to explore the Coast and realised that there are amazing destinations where they can holiday,’’ she said.

-Edited by SKanyara