Monday, January 2, 2012

Tourists resume visits to beaches as new strategy beefs up security

File | Nation Tourists have started to visit the beach once again due to improved security, courtesy of the Beach Management Programme

File | Nation Tourists have started to visit the beach once again due to improved security, courtesy of the Beach Management Programme 

By BOZO JENJE bjenje@ke.nationmedia.com

A new strategy to manage traders and improve security along the coastline has started to yield results with more tourists willing to visit the beaches instead of staying in hotels.

A plan to streamline beach operations—which were a perennial source of conflict between beach operators and the government— has also started taking shape, courtesy of the Sh150 million Beach Management Programme pilot programme.

Stakeholders in the tourism sector—including boat operators, curio sellers and other traders along the beaches— have started to relocate their activities along the 12-kilometre stretch from Tudor and Mtwapa creeks.

The more than 2,000 operators will be stationed at designated places to enhance security at the shoreline to avert incidents of tourist harassment.

The six-month project was initiated by the Kenya Wildlife Service and funded by the government.

Secure our beaches

Programme coordinator Arthur Tuda said hotels have embraced the project to their advantage by taking out sunbathing beds to the beaches because of the improved security.

The hotels include Voyager Beach, Sarova Whitesands, Travellers and Neptune Beach Hotel.

“In revamping the beaches, steps have to be taken to restore the lost glory that has been associated with our pristine white sand beaches and the measures will deal with emerging threats that have contributed to the decline,” he said.

“These threats include beach insecurity, beach degradation and youth unemployment.”

He said the initiative was meant to boost the fortunes of coastal tourism which have been declining over the years despite steady recovery of the sector.

“We want to secure our beaches to a level that is no longer uncompetitive destination and overcome economic losses,” he said.

He added that beach zoning also would reduce conflict among operators and improve partnership between hotels and communities.

The pilot programme along the Mombasa Marine Park and Reserve is expected to restore the confidence of beach-goers.

Mr Tuda, who is also a KWS senior warden, said through the project the marine and beach tourism products would be sustained by attracting more visitors that were opting to stay in the hotels for fear of harassment.

Sarova Whitesands Hotel General Manager Mohammed Hersi said over the December holidays the hotel laid over 40 sun beds for visitors at the beach to give them refreshing and unique moments.

“This festive season, there were no complaints from visitors about harassment as noted previously when about 50 per cent of them registered complaints,” he said during a phone interview with Nation.

He said to provide a conducive environment for sunbathing, the hotel had ordered 200 light weight beds from Spain to improve the beach destination.

He commended KWS teams for the brave move of preventing hustlers from interfering with the holiday makers.

The manager suggested that it was necessary to borrow a leaf from countries like Zanzibar, Sri Lanka whose beaches are free from harassment.

Coast Kenya Hotel Keepers and Caterers Association chairman Titus Kangangi said the hoteliers were willing to support the sustainability of the programme.

He said it would be important if the Beach management committee would restore the confidence in beach visitors.

Rejected by traders

Before the integrated approach that allowed beach operators operate business along the shoreline, stakeholders had recommended for their relocation from the beach so that tourist would be transported to the businesses from hotels.

But the recommendation was rejected by the traders leading to protests that led to the parties involved to turn to an all inclusive approach that is likely to salvage the beach as a safe holiday destination.