The Star (Nairobi)

29 January 2014

Kenya: Hoteliers in Watamu Condemn Boat Strike

HOTELIERS in Watamu have faulted the Kenya Wildlife Service over a strike by boat owners. The Watamu Boat Owners Association went on a strike over increased fees at the Watamu Marine Park by the KWS without consultation.

The hoteliers said they were not notified about the strike. They said the strike has affected the tourism sector. The hoteliers said they have incurred huge losses during the strike that begun on January 15.

Booked clients could not access the marine park. Hotels usually have a package that includes the cost of boats and guides in their accommodation rates. Hoteliers said their boats and clients were barred from accessing the marine park.

Hemingways Hotel managing director Garry Cullen yesterday said the move creates a bad picture of the tourism industry in Kenya. He said KWS should be mandated to control operations within the marine park.

In a letter addressed to KWS director and dated January 21, Cullen said they received a letter on January 15 from Wabo asking them to join the strike but had not received any notification about it before. He said on the material day, they were preparing to take clients out on a snorkelling trip.

"We received a message from the next door hotel that their dive boat and the clients on board had just been threatened by Wabo personnel who were enforcing their own strike on everyone else in the area".

He said they could not join the strike as it would mean a breach of contract with their clients and tour operators, who had paid for the boat services.

"It is one week later and any boats which have attempted to go snorkelling or diving in the Watamu Marine Park have been threatened with homemade petrol bombs (by a boat called "Millennium Baby Boy") and told in the presence of witnesses that the visitors to Kenya will be drowned if they attempt to enter the park," Cullen said.

He said their boat was attacked by Wabo personnel on a boat called 'Sorpresso' while on the Indian Ocean. Cullen said Wabo members forcibly removed their dive boat leaving most of the clients abandoned in the water.

"One client was in the boat and she was actually kidnapped when this boat was taken. This is an act of piracy," Cullen said. However, Watamu Marine Park warden Dickson Korir promised to give details of the problem later.

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