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Businesses, locals want cultural festival extended

Donkey racing
Donkey racing during 2016’s Lamu cultural event. FILE PHOTO | NMG   

With only two weeks left for Lamu to mark the 18th edition of its annual cultural fete, various stakeholders from trade, tourism, hotel, transport and locals are pushing to have the planned four days of activities extended.

Critics have said the four days are not enough for such a Lamu Cultural Festival that comes with lots of goodies for almost all the local sectors.

The festival is an annual event normally celebrated in the Old Town, a historical city listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.

The weekend-long event will be marked from November 22 to 25.

Stakeholders and locals, who spoke to the Sunday Nation on Friday, said that the Lamu County Government needs to reconsider allocating more than 10 days or even a whole month for the festival so that Lamu can enjoy the full benefits brought by the many visitors and tourists who flock to the region for the cultural.

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Over the years, the festival has seen a huge influx of traders from outside the island, such as Mpeketoni, Faza, Witu, Kizingitini.

This year’s activities are expected to attract over 50,000 local and foreign visitors, who will come to witness an array of cultural celebrations by the people of Lamu.

A local hotelier, Mr Omar Baishe, says that he sees no reason why the festival cannot be extended considering the huge benefits it brings to Lamu. He said that sectors such as trade and tourism always gain every time the festival is marked in the historical town.

“It’s at such a time that we traders reap big in terms of profits. Many people, including domestic and foreign tourists from far and wide, come to Lamu for the event. That alone expands our customer base and obviously boosts the county’s trade and tourism sector both economically and socially,” Mr Baishe said.

“By the time the festival ends, every single sector here is normally thriving. We make profits that we would never have dreamt of. Suppose it’s extended to at least 10 days or even a whole month, Lamu can build itself even further,” Mr Baishe added.

A beach operator in Lamu Town, Mr Hamisi Hussein, says the festival has managed to increase confidence among tourists coming to Lamu.

Some parts of Lamu, particularly those in the mainland areas of Mpeketoni, Witu, Hindi, Basuba, Boni forest and on the border of Lamu and Somalia, have, for years, witnessed deadly terrorist attacks.
That led some tourists to shy away from visiting the region.

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