Domestic Tourism in Mombasa

Published on 29th November 2011

Mombasa beach
How hard is it for a middle class woman to have lunch or take a drink at a five star hotel down at Mombasa? I had been saving for a while and recently, while in Mombasa, my friend Linet and I thought that it was a good idea to treat ourselves in a five star hotel for a day instead of buying ourselves something with the savings we had. A walk along the white sand beaches, the gentle sea breeze and the high class service provided would be a good experience for us. Wouldn’t it? After all, we would be promoting our country and discovering the beauty in it, we thought.

We already knew that a day at a five star hotel would cost us dearly and we did not want to spend unnecessary money before getting to the hotel. We thus shunned hiring a taxi and boarded a matatu, as the hotel was only a few meters away from the main road.

“Where do you think you are going?” a voice growled as we approached the hotel’s main entrance. At first we thought it was a security officer demanding that we undergo a security check. However, when he approached us, he notified us that young African girls are not allowed in the hotel precincts due to cases of misconduct that had been reported.

I could not help wondering why I could not enjoy the facilities and resources in my own country just because someone else had misbehaved while in the hotel. I concluded that I was receiving this negative treatment either because I was not driving, I am female or simply because I am not white.

While one of the aims of Kenya’s Tourism ministry is to encourage Kenyans of all walks of life to become active participants in domestic tourism as a way of boosting the sector, my experience clearly shows that the government is doing very little to encourage local tourists to enjoy what international tourists enjoy. Domestic tourism can cushion the tourism industry during low peak tourism seasons. It is a shame that domestic tourists are not taken seriously. Tourism anywhere can only be sustained by a strong foundation on the domestic front, but a few campaigns that have been held before to mobilize Kenyans to embark on domestic tourism seem to have left Mombasa out.

Mombasa is a beautiful coastal town characterized by a flat topography and warm tropical climate. Its beautiful beaches stretch for miles along the north and south coast, in addition to being a haven for those looking for a quiet, relaxing vacation. The coastal city boasts of historic and cultural attractions in addition to its rich flora, fauna and nature parks.

It is ironic that while domestic tourism ought to improve living standards of people in respective tourist circuits, this has not happened in Mombasa. Majority of people in the area are still living below the poverty line. Further, prohibitive costs do not allow them to enjoy tourist facilities. This trend may in the long run generate conflict and stifle tourism in the area. Tourism must not be touted as flourishing while the locals are left out of the picture.

By Emmy Okello
Intern, Inter Region Economic Network (IREN).

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