16 March 2017

Kenya: Lamu Tourism Showing Signs of Recovery After UK Lifts Advisory

The tourism sector in Lamu County is showing signs of improvement just days after the British government withdrew its travel restriction.

The advisory restricting travel affected Lamu and Manda Islands.

Last Friday, Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced the lifting of its travel advisory and instead saying that tourists from the UK could now travel safely to Lamu and Manda Islands.

The advisory, which had been in existence for more than five years, came as a result of insecurity in county owing to constant terror attacks and kidnapping of tourists by Al-Shabaab militants.

Speaking to journalists in Lamu on Wednesday, Lamu Governor Issa Timamy said the move by the British government to have the travel advisories lifted was a timely one for the county's tourism sector.

Mr Timamy said he had a number of meetings with the British High Commissioner in Lamu, Mombasa and Nairobi where he raised the issue of lifting of the travel advisories.

He said he was confident that the action taken by the UK to lift the travel advisory would go a long way to stabilise Lamu County.

Delighted

"I am delighted that the British Government decided to suspend the travel ban on Lamu and Manda Islands.

"When our tourism sector is picking, it means our fishermen are able to sell their catch to the various hotels, our farmers once the weather improves will be able to sell their commodities to the hotels.

"It means our dhow and boat operators and tour guides will be engaged in one way or the other. I really commend the British High Commissioner and the British government as a whole for lifting the advisories," said Mr Timamy.

He said the move already had a positive impact since there was a notable increase in hotel bookings from international tourists during the just concluded Lamu Yoga Festival.

"During the Yoga Festival four days ago, you couldn't find accommodation in Shella and Ras Kitau. I was impressed that 200 out of the 350 participants in the event came from about 27 different countries from all over the world.

"Only 150 were locals. That's enough indication that tourists have gained confidence with the Lamu security," said Mr Timamy.

On his side, Lamu County tourism director Mr Ali Ahmed said he was looking forward to have active travel restrictions by other western countries lifted.

The US still has active travel advisories restricting their citizens from touring Lamu due to security concerns.

Income generator

Tourism is Lamu's leading income generating activity but has been under numerous challenges due to insecurity.

Mr Ahmed said tourism has the potential to offer adequate employment and effectively grow the county's economy given the chance.

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