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Insufficient legal framework strain beach business

02 August 2013, 18:21 Kelvin Karani

Tens of thousands of jobs could be lost across the Coast region if the plight of beach operators is not sufficiently addressed by the county governments through formulation of beach management by-laws to protect the vulnerable entrepreneurs, according to a tourist lobby.

Lack of regulations governing beach management activities has polluted the beaches with beach boys who soil the reputation and profitability of licensed beach traders by engaging in harassment of visitors and bad conduct.

According to Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association (MCTA), such practices by the beach boys have prompted some hotels to consider evacuating all business people from the shorelines to designated areas outside the beach fronts.

This has been considered an unfair move by the traders who depend on the beach operations as their only source of livelihood especially those who are organized and have been vetted by the tourism ministry to conduct their activities.

Beach hustlers vs beach operators

“The county government should realise that there is a difference between beach hustlers and beach operators. Those said to be harassing tourists are beach hustlers and not beach operators. Beach operators are disciplined and carry out their work very well so chasing them away because of some distractors’ mistakes will not solve the problem,” said Edward Wangechi, MCTAs Programs Manager.

Speaking during a Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA) training workshop in Mombasa, Wangechi said that the county governments should address issues of beach management if they were keen on addressing the employment challenges in the region.

Administer penalties and sentences to offenders

He said that the devolved administrations should set up laws at the county levels that will administer penalties and sentences to offenders operating along beaches.

“There are no Acts that govern beach management so the key is to set laws and by-laws that will govern beach management,” he said noting that offenders currently go scot free due to lack of legal prescriptions.

Wangechi further pointed out that the lobby was ready to work with the Counties in devising a regulatory framework and organizing beach operators.

Monopolise beach businesses by taking over sale of small merchandise

He however opposed the idea of evicting the traders that is currently being pushed by some investors in the industry and questioned their intentions claiming that they only wanted to monopolise the beach businesses by taking over sale of small merchandise and related services themselves.

Wangechi said that the hotels should continue doing the food, accommodation and entertainment business and let the local community benefit from the other opportunities.

“Tourism should benefit everyone in the local community,” he said.

With the region boasting an average of 6 000 beach operators in each County, the tourist lobby claims that such a move would threaten sustainable livelihoods for the thousands of families that depend directly and indirectly on tourism.

“Over 6 000 jobs from Wasini to Lamu will be lost if beach operators are kicked out of the beaches. We have more than 3 000 beach operators in the beaches. Chasing them away will lead to loss of these jobs and later, most of them will go crime activities putting this region at risk,” he observed.

He has urged the County government and the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) to ensure that the beach operators receive enough support so that they can carry out their work smoothly since most of them depend on the jobs to feed and educate their children.

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