Tourism downturn leaves 3,000 Lamu hotel staff jobless

More than 3,000 hotel workers in Lamu County are jobless following the closure of six beach hotels.

The resorts shut down due to lack of international guests, according to Lamu Tourist Association Vice-Chairman Ghalib Alwy.

He said since last year, European tourists have been shunning Lamu due to terrorism and threats issued by Al-Shabaab.

The official said last year’s Mpeketoni attack dealt a major blow to tourism in the archipelago.

Travel advisories issued by the United Kingdom, the United States, France and Australia in May last year have also contributed to the tourism slump in the region.

“At the moment, we don’t have international tourists due to security fears,” said Mr Alwy in a telephone interview.

He said local holidaymakers were avoiding Lamu due to the poor state of roads to the area.


According to him, the road from Lango La Simba in Tana River County to Mokowe in Lamu had remained un-tarmacked since independence.

To revive the sector, Mr Alwy appealed to the government to address the security concerns raised by the Western countries for them to lift the travel advisories.

He also called on the Transport and Infrastructure ministry to tarmac the Tana River-Lamu road so that domestic tourists can easily travel to the archipelago.

At the same time, fishermen in Lamu are counting losses as their catch goes to waste due to lack of a market occasioned by the hotels’ closure.

Mr Ahmed Omar, a fisherman, said the lobsters and prawns they catch were rotting as only a few locals can afford the seafood.

“We used to sell our lobsters to the hotels as European tourists enjoyed feasting on the seafood,” he said.

“Most fishermen are now languishing in poverty as buyers are hard to come by,” he added.

Livestock and poultry farmers in Mpeketoni have also been hit hard by the tourism downturn.

“We used to sell beef, milk, eggs and chicken to the hotels but this is no more as the establishments have closed down,” said Mr Kamau Ngugi, a farmer.

Traders who used to visit Lamu to buy livestock and poultry products, were now avoiding the area owing to security fears.

The farmers called on the government to tackle the security challenges to enable them to have buyers.

In Kilifi County, at least seven leading hotels have formed a group to promote domestic and regional tourism.

The East African Leisure Group brings together hotels in Malindi, Watamu and Mambrui resort towns.

Ocean Beach Resort Managing Director Roberto Marini said the hotels are Kola Beach Resort (Mambrui), Geroda Beach Resort (Watamu), Kobe Resort (Watamu), Gecko Resort (Watamu), Seven Islands Resort (Watamu), Crystal Bay Resort (Watamu) and Ocean Beach Resort (Malindi).

Ocean Beach Resort was in April rated fifth out of the top 10 best hotels in Kenya, according to rankings by TripAdvisor, an American travel website that provides reviews of travel-related content.