(eTN) – A recent fire in Watamu, which reportedly destroyed several holiday villas and nearby buildings, brought renewed demands from members of the coast branch of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers to improve fire fighting capabilities.
Tourism is the most significant business in Malindi and Watamu, and the opening of new larger facilities at Malindi Airport is bound to further increase the inflow of visitors to the area. However, the often “makuti”-covered roof structures of beach resorts and holiday villas are also bound to burn easily, in spite of being treated with chemicals supposed to prevent the dry palm leaf panels from catching fire or burning rapidly. Strong winds often fuel fires, blowing debris to other nearby roofs, and only a swift response from the fire brigade can avoid a property burning to the ground.
Hotels and insurance companies are at the forefront of demands to the Malindi and Watamu councils to introduce an added fire station and equip them with state-of-the-art vehicles, capable of responding to fires at an instant, to save lives and property.
A regular source from the Kenyan coast said in an overnight response to questions asked by this correspondent: “Tourism is a big source of income for the council. They should invest some of the income back into infrastructure. A good fire brigade is not just for hotels but the entire community. But the resorts are vulnerable to negative press reports after a fire happens, and we cannot respond quickly.
“These reports spread faster than the fire, because our guests stand there and watch and use their phones for social network messages, Facebook or Twitter. In fact, when a fire breaks out, their friends far abroad know often what is happening, even with pictures, before the fire brigade is even aware of a fire.
“And when then an old vehicle arrives, and there is not enough water, for instance, that is going around the world these days instantly and makes us look bad.”
In closing, investments in the safety of tourists, and also of area residents, seems a crucial component of the tourism industry. Governments, in the entire region have a challenge at hand to improve their track record.