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Watamu tourism players call for relaxation of Covid-19 protocols

Tourism players in Watamu township of Kilifi County have asked the government to relax some of the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions so as to attract tourists.
The players, who comprised hotel owners, bars, and restaurants, and bodaboda operators said the current restrictions were making it difficult for them to get good business as clients were shying away.
They said Watamu, a renowned tourism destination, attracts people when restaurants and bars are open and selling alcohol.
A survey conducted by the Kenya News Agency revealed that most tourist resorts that had re-opened business had instituted measures to enable them to adhere to Covid-19 protocols and each facility had strict conditions for guests entering them.
Among the resorts that have already opened include Turtle Bay, Lily Palm Mapango restaurant and Hemingways, which now depend entirely on the domestic tourist market. It is expected that international tourists will start flowing in from November this year.
The General Manager Turtle Bay Resort in Watamu Damien Davies said he was optimistic that the tourism sector would be revived after reopening early this month following over four months of closure due to Covid-19 pandemic.
He said the establishment had been having many challenges to make sure the resort is safe for guests to come for holiday.
Davies said one of the biggest challenges after opening was the ban on alcohol in resorts for people who needed to relax and enjoy their holidays.
“We have done everything to ensure that we follow all the protocols and guidelines, and we believe that it will be safe to serve alcohol alongside meals without endangering our guests or staff,” he said.
The proprietor of Car Wash Restaurant James Wasonga Ochieng said the usually vibrant Watamu township had gone silent because of lack of tourists.
“Life is very difficult here because Watamu is touristic. Without tourism, nothing goes on here. We urge the government to relax some of the protocols that hinder tourists from coming to this resort town to enable locals to survive,” he said.

Ochieng said the government’s ban of sale of alcohol had adversely affected his business since most of his clients were people who usually accompanyed meals with alcoholic drinks.
“I used to have six workers, but since the business is bad, I have been forced to remain with only one worker despite adhering to the guidelines and protocols from the Ministry of Health,” he lamented.
Lily Palm Mapango proprietor Resort Rolando Canestrini said he had opened a section of the resort at the beach in Watamu to kick off a business that would depend on domestic tourists.
He said his establishment would follow all the laid down guidelines, including the ban on alcohol, but said he would be happier if alcoholic drinks would be allowed for resident guests.
Locals interviewed said life has become unbearable because their livelihoods depended largely on tourism.
Boda boda operators, curio sellers and those in the boutique businesses said they could not make ends meet since they did not have clients for their businesses.
Normally, August is high season and Watamu gets busy as hotels are usually open with many guests.
By Emmanuel Masha

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