Kenyan tourists dominated this year’s annual Lamu cultural festival with a turn out of over 90 percent guests from within the country. The rise is attributed to the growing attraction of domestic travel to Kenyan holiday makers.
More than 10,000 people from Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi and other towns in the country flocked to the island to witness the historic annual festival that is celebrated each year to promote culture. Guests started arriving as early as Tuesday last week and hit a climax on Friday and Saturday.
Businessmen, hoteliers, transporters and tour operators took advantage of the festival to make profits. Security was tight to ensure that there was no hitch during the festival. All who attended termed the event a success. The set up was colourful with banners for diverse companies which sponsored the event and decorations all over the sea front and the Mkunguni hall where most of the activities were held.
At night the streets were lit making it easier for both tourists and locals to move around. For the first time the Awer minority community participated in the festival and presented their traditional lifestyle and music.They were initially hunters and gatherers.
Tourism Minister Najib Balala, and numerous foreign diplomats were at the function and promised continuous support for the promotion of the culture and the historic festival.
At the same time there were NMK Chairman Issa Timammy, MD iddle Farah and Alliance Francaise managing director Helen Bekker, Coast PC Ernest Munyi among other senior personalities.
Balala said the success of the festival was a clear indication that Lamu was safe. “Lamu is safe and secure. There is ample security for the guests during the cultural festival and other tourists can come and enjoy their holidays,” he said. He said the domestic market had improved and announced that the intention was to take it higher by 2015.
The French Ambassador to Kenya said he attended the festival to continue promoting culture as it had created a big friendship between Lamu and France. “France has been sponsoring the cultural festival for the past 11 years since it started. Our coming to celebrate shows our position of appreciation of the Swahili culture and willingness to enhance heritage and historical culture,” he said.
The Spanish Ambassador said they have been sponsoring the cultural festival for the past six years, a move that has strengthened friendship between Kenya and Spain. The European Union representative disclosed that they were in full support of the festival and promised funding to make it better.
National Museums of Kenya chairman thanked Kenyans for turning out in large numbers for the historic event. “We have heard so many local tourists from Nairobi and Mombasa for the festival who made it successful. Those who came confirmed that Lamu is safe and we urge all the travel agents to resume their normal operations in the Island,” he said.