Tourism stakeholders at the Coast have named insecurity and poaching as the key obstacles in pitching the country to the international market.
Speaking at a stakeholder’s meeting at Leopard Beach Hotel last week, Slovakia ambassador Michel Mlynar said despite the zeal of various agents to market Kenya’s beauty across the globe, incidents of insecurity and terrorism put a hamper to their efforts.
“Incidents like what has been witnessed at the Westgate Mall and infrastructural challenges make it difficult to promote and market this beautiful country, although it would be a sin not to do so,” said Mr Mlynar.
Long-serving hotelier Chris Modigell said it was sad that the tourism industry was going backwards instead of forward.
With over 30 years of service at the South Coast, Mr Modigell said seven hotels had closed down and only one opened within Diani in the recent past.
“I am worried about the sector and not so much about the investments and the tourists coming to visit but more so about the people employed in the industry,” said Mr Modigell adding that with the industry being one of the fastest growing in the world, Tanzania was already giving Kenya a run for its money.
According to Mr Modigell, raising revenues and increasing prices would not help if the government cannot put in place measures to stop poaching at all costs.
He complained about the poor state of infrastructure, including absence of street lights, sidewalks, and extension roads to interior attractions like Galu Kinondo.
Travel advisories, water shortage, power outages, poor garbage collection systems, and ferry delays were all cited as challenges that needed to be addressed for the sector to improve.
“We finally had the Diani beach road tarmaced after 40 years of deteriorating (sic), but we still need to have the Diani airstrip expanded to enable bigger aircraft access the destination,” said Mr Modigell.
Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya said the county government had successfully engaged its national counterpart on a number of issues and that positive progress was underway.
“As much as we want to tap into the potential of both beach and park tourism, we understand that access is still a problem.
“Plans to expand the airstrip in Diani are underway and construction of the by-pass will begin at the end of this year, but even that is a temporary solution in accessing the airport.
We are further looking into linking the south coast to Chyulu and Tsavo through the Samburu/Kinango Kwale road and that way we will expand our clientele for park tourism,” said Mr Mvurya.
He said the current budget had factored in street lighting, water supply, and road paving.
The governor further promised that his government would look into diversifying tourism products to spice up the menu for the industry.