Hoteliers in Malindi express fears over Rift Valley fever's impact on tourism

Malindi tourism
Merry makers go for a boat ride at Malindi National Park in Kilifi County on April 17, 2017. Hoteliers say they will have to spend more to source meat from Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Hoteliers in Malindi and its environs in the coast say they will be forced to substitute meat with sea food or get it from Nairobi -- hundreds of kilometres away -- incurring extra costs to meet customers' demands.

This follows the suspension of livestock movement and slaughterhouse operations in Malindi and Magarini sub-counties to curb the spread of Rift valley Fever.

On Monday, county head of veterinary services Cornel Malenga issued the directive after sample tests on cattle and goats in the two sub-counties turned positive for the fever.

Dr Malenga had, in an August 2 circular, confirmed the disease in some animals at Kanagoni, Kagombani, Mjanaheri and Sabaki.


Booming tourism

Tourism players fear the fever will affect their business.

The disease outbreak comes at a time when hotels in the coast region are expecting a booming business as tourism approaches the high season.

Alexander Zissimatos, the general manager of Tropical Village, Malindi Dream Garden and Dream of Africa resorts said they will have to spend more to get meat from Nairobi.

“Tourism is picking up and we will be forced to go extra mile to satisfy our customers,” he said.

Mr Zassimatos was optimistic the outbreak would not hamper tourism, noting that his “Dream of Africa resort has already registered 70 per cent bed occupancy”.

However, Ms Naomi Kimani, the owner of Olympia Club in Malindi said it would affect business as nobody would trust that the meat was sourced from Nairobi.

“Unless I show them the receipt, but as long as the outbreak is there, many tourists are going to shift their holiday destination from Malindi,” she said.

She added that "it will also make the price of chicken and fish to rise.”

Other hoteliers in Watamu who spoke on anonymity said the ban will also affect their business during the high season.

On Tuesday, County Health Executive Anisa Omar wrote a letter to the Italian consulate in Malindi informing them that the situation was under control and there was no need to panic.

Quarantine notice

Mr Erick Mwashigadi, the Stars and Gatters Club's owner who is also the Pubs, Entertainment, Restaurant Association of Kenya (Perak) chairman criticised the county government for not having involved tourism stakeholders before issuing the quarantine notice.

“We learnt of the ban in WhatsApp group and it is going to affect our businesses since most bars and restaurants in the region buy their meat for stew and Nyama Choma in butcheries that have closed down,” he said.

According to the county head of veterinary services, the Rift Valley Fever is caused by Aedes mosquitos that breed in flooded areas.

In April, more than 86,000 people in Tana River and Kilifi counties were displaced by floods after Tana and Sabaki rivers broke their banks following heavy downpours upstream.

In Kilifi alone, about 16,000 people in Garashi, Kakuyuni and Jilore in Malindi and Magarini sub counties were displaced after River Sabaki broke its banks.

“We are targeting to spray flooded areas with acaricides to control mosquitoes that transmit the disease to humans,” Dr Malenga told the Business Daily on phone.

He added though that the "the disease is also spread to human beings through contact with affected animals during handling and slaughtering.”