More setbacks for Mombasa’s tourism sector as new convention centre plans shelved


(Posted 29th November 2013)

When tourism stakeholders from Mombasa were told yesterday during a meeting with county government officials, that plans to build a second national convention and conference centre at the coast where shelved due to lack of funds, widespread disillusionment set it, finally dousing the euphoria of past months that the new devolved system of government would work in the favour of the tourism industry. The mood turned outright angry even, going by comments received, when it was learned that the Mombasa County Government needed to raise four times as much revenue as last financial year in order to make ends meet. Two sources, which had in the past opposed the new constitution, under which a devolved system of government was created and which is now eating up Kenya’s tax revenues at record pace for recurrent expenses like salaries and allowances instead of leaving sufficient funds for investments, felt vindicated in their stand and one of them wrote: ‘If that vote for the constitution would be repeated tomorrow, no one in their right mind would again vote in favour. The devolved system of government has already shown to full of problems if not already a failure. It has instantly turned into another eating frenzy by lower level politicians. I am happy the president launched the new railway in Mombasa yesterday which is a big infrastructure investment but what we at the coast also need are roads, bridges, water, sewerage and electricity connections and we also need that second national conference centre to bring big conventions to the coast. That was promised long ago and now we are told there is no money. Kenya as a destination has a lot going for it but we are messing ourselves up the way things are run at county levels. How dare they to demand a 500 Shilling bed tax when already our occupancies are half of last year. Forget Christmas and New Year business, after that our beds will be empty and yet they want to tax them, how come?

Meanwhile is another rebellion brewing as Kenya’s tour and safari operators are demanding that KWS halt plans to raise park entrance fees from 80 US Dollars per person per day to 90 US Dollars per person per day. ‘Together with the bloody VAT on a range of tourism services this will make Kenya yet more expensive again at a time when the numbers of tourists are going down. How can we justify higher prices when our key markets still suffer from the fallout of their economic crisis and when our reputation abroad is under a cloud because of all the anti travel advisories but of course also because of what happened in Kenya. There are concerns people have and they must be addressed. I am waiting for KTB to publish the latest arrival figures for the quarter ending September 30th. Are they dragging their feet because the figures are poor or what? We should know, the sooner the better but what we do know at the coast is that our booking forecasts for the period of after New Year to Easter are as bad as they have not been since 2008. Our politicians speak with forked tongues to us. We were promised an Utalii [Kenya’s national hotel and tourism training
college presently only operating in Nairobi] campus in Mombasa, for years we hear about a second big convention centre in Bamburi, a bypass to reach the south coast and I have not even started about potholes, rubbish all over the place, beach boys etc. Something has to give because the prospect of job losses will be a big challenge for the new government. They are too preoccupied with too many things other than our key economic sector which is tourism. Maybe Hersi [Mohammed Hersi, Chairman of the Mombasa and Coast Tourism
Association and CEO of Heritage Hotels] can get through to his bosses and let them know how desperate the situation is down here at the coast’ lambasted one regular source from Mombasa the present situation. And I am not even tempted to say time will tell because time clearly is running out before more woes beset Kenya’s coast tourism sector. Watch this space.

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