By Joel Mzee
Hoteliers in Lamu reaped big following a huge turnout of local and international tourists thanks to the return of the Lamu Cultural Festival.
The 4 day Lamu Cultural Festival that begun from the 24th through 27th November is referred to as the holy grail of Lamu’s Tourism and Festival calendar due to the number of tourists who usually flock the World Heritage Site for the showcase and allure of Swahili Culture.
According to Lamu County Government’s Tourism department, a large number of guests were forced to seek accommodation from local homesteads, with some homeowners creating space for them due to the high demand for accommodation during the Lamu Cultural Festival.
Lamu is currently getting back to its festive calendar of events after being disrupted by the Covid pandemic having lined among them being the famed Lamu Yoga Festival as well as Eid-Ul-Adha, Maulid festival, food and expo Festival, Lamu fishing competition and Lamu painters and Hat expo.
Speaking to the media during the first day of the Lamu Cultural Festival, Lamu Palace Hotel Manager Keziah Mumbi stated that the hotel has been fully booked throughout the festival period and hailed the comeback of the festival calendar as a boon for tourism which had significantly declined in recent years.
“Most of the hotels in Lamu, had resorted to subsidizing or closing down their hotels during the low season, but with the return of the Lamu festival calendar, we expect our establishments to remain operational and viable throughout the year,” she said.
Sentiments echoed by both Lamu Floating Bar and Restaurant owner as well as Lamu Tourism Association Vice chairman Fridah Njeri who further revealed that hoteliers as well as holiday makers have expressed optimism with the comeback of the Lamu Cultural Festival.
“Lamu’s is slowly shedding its reputation as a security operational area and slowly transforming itself as a unique tourist hub due to its festival calendar,” she said, adding that she has also seen an increase of guests flocking to her establishment.
Baji Kalume, a hotelier and AirBnB operator in Lamu, also stated that his hotel is fully booked running up to early January next year.
“The boon in tourist numbers is a welcome gift for many hoteliers who have in the past had to lay off a number of staff, leading to more poverty among communities that depend on the tourism sector,” he said.
Omar Bakari popularly known among the tourist guide community as “Black Coffee” due to his dark complexion also hailed the return of the Lamu festival calendar, stating that the increase in guests within Amu Island, has led to the revival and establishment of Lamu festival calendar.
“We have full flight bookings from Mombasa and Nairobi, and we hope that the Lamu Cultural Festival can provide us with the right momentum to maintain our passenger numbers.
On his part Lamu’s Department of Tourism Director Ali Ahmed stated that the county government was working closely with hoteliers to ensure that they stay afloat throughout the year.
“Tourism is one of the highest income earners in Lamu and the second largest job creator after fishing and agriculture, therefore the county government will support initiatives aimed at ensuring the sector thrives, including the establishment and support of the Lamu Festival Calendar,” he said.