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EDITORIAL

Weddings, festivals, children: august in the coast without italians

How tourism sector in Malindi and Watamu is adapting

02-08-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo

This time last year, we were beginning to see the glass of Tusker Lager half full for the first time in months.
On 1 August Kenya had reopened its international airports and was accepting flights from all over the world. A large part of the global population was hopeful that the pandemic would evaporate before autumn and that the economic crisis could be contained so that they could resume travelling as soon as possible. On the other side, that of the glass half-empty of spritz, Italy did not allow tourism (as it still does, and the glass is increasingly empty) and imposed a 14-day quarantine on return, for residents and those who could (or dared) to arrive.
We have witnessed the first August after so many years in which Malindi and Watamu, like the rest of the Kenyan coast devoted to tourism, could count almost exclusively on local clientele, from Nairobi and the surrounding area.
This year we will be little more than in the same "climax".
The difference is that many Italian businesses, from hotels to restaurants and bars, in this calendar year have practised and converted at least in part to an offer closer to the needs of Kenyans or foreign holidaymakers but not compatriots.
There are families of employees of international organisations, Europeans living in Nairobi who choose the seaside for their August holidays, Germans who can return (their tourist trips are only discouraged and on return quarantine is only five days, with a quick swab on arrival and others to follow, as should also be done in Italy) and other Eastern European and non-Schengen citizens.
It is always strange to see Malindi without Italians, but one must and can get used to it, because nothing will ever be the same again.
It is difficult to think, at least until December 2022, of the return of mass tourism, that of tour operators and large villages. But perhaps we also need to rethink that type of tourism. As with certain structures that choose "dead periods" for renovations, it would be necessary to understand how to rethink holidays in exotic destinations, excluding holiday villages, entertainment, and those inclusive methods that are now probably outdated.
If the future of Italians in Kenya is therefore linked to conscious tourism, safaris and experiences (and many boutique hotels are intelligently turning to this), and perhaps it will return to being "first class" tourism, in this period it will be necessary to work out and make hay with other nationalities, including the majority at home.
This is why marketing, rather than on "experiences", proposes locations for weddings and celebrations, the smell of hamburgers rather than prawns and lobsters on the beach, music festivals (currently daily, but in hotels for those who book a room they last all night), 3x2 (or better, 12x8) drinks and offers for families.
In August Watamu will be full of events, organised by hotels: the third edition of the 7 Islands Festival on Paparemo beach, followed by the second edition of the Temple Point Festival. In Vipingo there will be another Beach Fest. These are the cheerful 'youth attractor' events, with deejays and dancing, cocktails and a riot of vloggers, selfies and new hippies. At the same time, many hotels are gearing up to accommodate families with children. Children's games and attractions, swimming instructors, televisions everywhere. All that's missing are chocolates dropping from palm trees every two hours and soundproof swimming pools with noise barriers.
On the other hand, those who have chosen the hospitality profession must watch and respect the market, keep up to date and adapt their offerings. Otherwise they might as well close down. Taking up the challenge of a new type of tourism can be stimulating, as can, especially for Malindi, always including a little bit of the Italian spirit in its offer to Kenyans and foreigners, making it live as an excellence and not as an unrepentant desire to hold on to one's own strongholds. It is easier for Watamu, where the mixture of different entities has always been the basis of the town's success, and decidedly more exciting for Kilifi, which is now beginning to be considered an interesting destination and which has focused on alternative youth, eco-sustainability and artistic inclinations before others.
Paradoxically, those who mourn the lack of Italians at this time as an economic misfortune should look to the tourist industry in Mombasa and its beach offshoots (Bamburi, Shanzu Beach, Nyali) which, with their many huge hotel structures, need huge numbers to survive and maintain a certain level of services. In order to continue to do so, they have lowered prices to an exaggerated degree, accepting almost unthinkable guests, or seeking extreme solutions such as Ukrainian or Lithuanian tourism. 
If former 'Italian' destinations are to explore new markets, it will be crucial not to drop their 'trousers' too much.
Because going down is easy enough, coming back up almost impossible.

TAGS: turismo kenyacosta kenyaitaliani kenya

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