TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS MINCE NO WORDS OVER ROADS AND WATER
A tourism stakeholder meeting earlier in the week at the Sarova Whitesands Resort and Spa once again focused on the perennial challenges the industry at the Kenyan coast is faced with, poor roads, congestion at the Likoni ferry and a lack of enough water, amongst other issues. Mohammed Hersi, in his capacity as Chairman of the Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association, was reported to have said: Mombasa needs immediate help. This is the gateway to East Africa and must have good infrastructure, a demand echoed by a number of comments received from participants, keen to expose their daily challenges and attract the attention of government and of the Mombasa City Council. Hersi, in his professional capacity the Regional General Manager Coast for Sarova Hotels, went on to demand that the road from the airport of Mombasa into the city be repaired immediately. Another regular source from Mombasa said in an overnight mail: We need that road from the airport directly to the South Coast. There is a lot of potential for more resorts and tourism facilities at that side but getting there through the Likoni ferry is a nightmare. But like the road from Narok to the Masai Mara, we only hear a lot of promises and still work has not started. Then we have the issue with water. There is a big shortfall between supply and demand and even after the pipeline from Mzima Springs has been fully upgraded, we still need more water. Government has not shown us how they intend to deal with this and we are not seeing any investments in that sector. If tourism is to grow as we hope for, the resorts need water, the entire coast needs water to run businesses and homes. We also need a regular and stable supply of power at rates resorts can afford. No resort at the coast can operate without air conditioning, so we need more powerplants to cater for more demand. But the first impression when tourists come to Mombasa, is the road from the airport into the city. It is shameful how that part of the road has been neglected and how visitors are shaken up in their busses and cars. Tourism is a very big business for the coast but major investments in making Mombasa attractive are lacking. And then there is still no clear date for our elections. Our overseas partners keep asking about it because they want to be prepared. After the last elections in end 2007 that is understandable. We are almost in May now and still have no date? As a sector we are concerned that work until the elections might slow down and we cannot afford to stand still. Our competitors are not wasting time so Kenya also has to keep up the pace.
It was also reported that some of the participants dared the prime minister, who was at the same time on a visit to the coast to prop up his flagging political fortunes in Mombasa after he sacked the hugely popular former tourism minister Najib Balala, still an MP for one of Mombasas constituencies, to stand in the queue at the Likoni ferry to understand what commuters are going through on a daily basis.
Watch this space for regular updates from the tourism sectors in Eastern Africa and the latest developments from each country of the East African Community.