Domestic tourism is the answer to the ailing sector in the country, a member of Parliament has suggested.
Malindi MP, Mr Gideon Mung’aro, said over reliance on foreign tourists has led to dwindling incomes from the once “goose that lays the golden eggs” sector, which at one time surpassed coffee and tea earnings that have been top foreign exchange earners for decades.
The MP was commenting on the overwhelming numbers of visitors to the Coast, particularly in Malindi, which recorded one of the biggest tourism booms in history. The tiny Malindi airport was overwhelmed by the number of aircraft that landed there, as local tourists swarmed the town over Christmas and New Year.
More than 30 chattered aircraft, mainly from upcountry, landed there according to area district commissioner Mr Arthur Mugira. “I think after the post-election violence in 2007, Kenyans realised the need to go round the country to realise how beautiful it is,” said Mr Mung’aro.
He added that the grand coalition government had also taught Kenyans a lesson that they all belong to the same motherland and need more cohesion and unity. “Kenyans are now more aware of their patriotism obligation. They have realised the need for unity and have to tour their own country. That is why we witnessed such huge numbers of local tourists in Malindi. This has never happened before,” he said.
Mr Mung’aro said a vibrant media, which highlighted Malindi positively as a wonderful tourist destination, also contributed to the boom. “I must thank the media for persistently highlighting Malindi as a wonderful place to visit throughout the year. This has attracted many visitors to the place,” he said.
All 25 four and five star tourist hotels were fully booked, and so were local hotels in town. Virtually every sleeping space was occupied in the town from Christmas. On New Year, the Malindi-Lamu road from Malindi Casino was impassable, as it was jammed with human traffic.
Night joints and restaurants were overflowing with guests. The Malindi and Watamu beach areas were also occupied by thousands of revellers throughout the night. Italian billionaire Mr Flavio Briatore added impetus to the visits when he brought a big number of his relatives and friends for the holidays at his exclusive Lion in the Sun residence to celebrate the Christmas and New Year festivals.
Security was tight in all areas visited by guests. Tourist police officers, regular and administration police officers were deployed everywhere. Air surveillance was also provided and this led to an unusually peaceful festive season in the area.