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Terrorism is bleeding Lamu tourism to death, say firms

Lamu town acts as the main tourism and trade hub in the county. Tourism stakeholders have come out blaming state of security in many parts of Lamu for the dwindling economy. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Lamu town acts as the main tourism and trade hub in the county. Tourism stakeholders have come out blaming state of security in many parts of Lamu for the dwindling economy. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Tourism players in Lamu say incessant attacks on the archipelago by al Shabaab are bleeding the sector to the bone.

They said raids, which have been witnessed on the Lamu-Garsen road, Ishakani, Pandanguo, Maleli, Poromoko, Basuba and Boni forest have greatly and negatively impacted the sector, which is the backbone of region’s economy.

Stakeholders comprising hotel owners, traders, businesspeople and fishermen said al-Shabaab were to blame for the low number of tourists visiting the region this year and a good part of 2017.

Many visitors and other guests are reported to have shied away citing insecurity.

A survey revealed that some tourists who had booked starting this month cancelled their reservations at the 11th hour particularly after January 13 incident at Nyongoro.

During the attack armed al-Shabaab militants waylaid and ambushed a security convoy that was escorting buses from Lamu to Malindi and Mombasa and killed a woman leaving five police officers injured.

The over 50 militants also torched two police Land Cruisers. Most hotels in Lamu town, Shella, Ras Kitau, Kipungani, Manda, Kiwayu and Mkokoni are currently receiving very low turnout of guests with proprietors of such facilities expressing disappointment over the continued dwindling of the tourism industry in the region.

According to former Lamu Tourism Association Deputy chair Ghalib Alwy who is also a hotel proprietor in Lamu town, there is an urgent need for the government to intervene by coming up with effective strategies of marketing the county’s tourism to the outside world.

He said the issue of insecurity was the biggest hurdle that the sector faces since 2014 after the Mpeketoni massacre where al-Shabaab militants raided the busy business town and killed massacred 100 people.

“Things aren’t alright here in Lamu in as far as tourism is concerned. The recurrent attacks by al-Shabaab are making things even worse. Tourists have kept off Lamu. Extra efforts need to be made on the part of the government to salvage the current situation,” said Mr Alwy.

Mr Said Abdulrehman, a resort owner said the tourism sector will only grow when and if the government decides to seriously tame constant attacks from al shabaab.

“There is need for prompt interventions to save the Lamu economy. Tourism is the backbone but it’s doing so bad. And how can tourism grow if al-Shabaab seem to be in charge. Security must be improved and travel advisories lifted. I believe once that happens the economy of this place will be revived,” said Mr Abdulrehman.

Fishermen mostly from Ishakani and Kiunga areas in Lamu East which is the main fishing hub said the ban on night fishing was a blow since a good catch can only be made at night.

On May 1, 2017, the national government, however, announced the lifting of the ban which had been in force for over five years but fisher folk say some officers prevent their night ocean forays.

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