Home' Travel News : July 2013 Contents 34 travel news July 2013
July 2013 travel news 35
I’d not heard much recently about the
scourge of Kenya’s most popular beaches:
the aggressive and invasive beach
vendors. Selling everything from safaris to
curios to hard drugs, they are in your face
24/7 and use nefarious methods to force
My 16-year-old daughter was on Diani
Beach recently with a friend when
approached by a very dodgy beach vendor
and his mates. They were selling curios; the
girls were not interested, and politely said
as much. Immediately they were verbally
abused and accused of being racists, and
when this intimidation didn’t work, they
were sexually harassed.
They spent the rest of their time on one
of our best beaches, lounging around the
hotel pool, afraid to venture out.
Desperate times certainly, but to stoop
to this abusive and aggressive level is
totally unacceptable to anyone anywhere
- resident or tourist.
Now, who is going to do something about
I recall a number of years ago, that
government was going to do something
about this menace. Kenya has some of the
best beaches in the world, but our tourists
feel threatened and, like my daughter, they
spend their time around the hotel pool.
I’ve always remembered meeting a
honeymoon couple ten years ago or so,
who had split their beach holiday between
Mauritius and Kenya. They were not best
pleased that they were unable to use our
beaches because of harassment from
beach vendors, while in Mauritius they
enjoyed their beach holiday albeit they
said on a second rate beach.
While this issue was front and centre in years
gone by, the Tourist Police were deployed
to designated problem areas, but were
seriously challenged by a lack of transport.
Off-beach markets were identified and
plans made to move the beach vendors to
these sites. A rather fanciful idea with no
complimentary transportation laid on from
hotel to market; and once having lured the
beach vendors away, without doubt their
places would have been taken by more
My daughter tells me she didn’t see any
Tourist Police in the week she was at Diani.
Mind you, she spent most of it around the
hotel pool. The off-beach markets, not the
greatest idea in the first place, have not
happened, as far as I am aware.
Now that tourists are returning to our
national parks and beaches, government
must address issues such as this – vigilant
beach patrols by the Tourist Police would
be a good start.
On-beach markets in designated areas
with licensed and self-regulated vendors
could be an answer. It worked for a couple
of years at Watamu, until pressure built
on the local administration from those
who were excluded from this supposedly
lucrative trade. Bowing to pressure, they
then sent in the thugs to evict the licensed
vendors and to destroy all their kiosks
with immediate effect. No advance notice
On my last visit to Watamu, the wrecked
kiosks still littered the beach, with the
previously licensed vendors now plying
their trade in front of their former shops.
While the influx of new, more aggressive
vendors was obvious, it reminded me of
my daughter's Diani incident.
There has to be an answer. I thought
Watamu had got it right, where all
vendors were licensed and carried ID and
importantly, were self-regulated. It worked
well for a year or two; a model for the rest
of Kenya’s fabulous beaches. Sadly, its
demise and the apparent reasons for it,
does not bode well for the dream of hassle-
free Kenyan beaches.
Everyone has to have the opportunity to
make a living; that is obvious. But taken in
the context that the shopping mall is full,
do you burn it down in the hope that it’s
rebuilt with more shops, therefore more
I still walk the beach everyday I’m at the
coast, I fear no beach vendor – they
annoy me greatly and never take no for an
answer. There must be a solution without
re-inventing the wheel. The Watamu model
worked – government must build on it and
try to be as inclusive as is reasonable.
Regulation and a bit of education is
required, for starters. Please, Madam
Secretary, take note and take action. We
have to start somewhere; this cannot go
We have to protect our reputation as
a quality tourist destination – what is
happening on our beaches is unacceptable
behaviour, and can only harm our country's
efforts to attract the 3 million tourists our
new President is aiming for.
We want our beaches back!
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