Mombasa in Holiday Tourism Slump Due to Security Fears

December 25,2014

MOMBASA— Kenya's usually popular beachside tourist destination of Mombasa is seeing a much slower holiday season this year due to fears of insecurity as the country has suffered from a string of terror attacks linked to Somali militants.

It’s festive season. This time of year Kenyan beaches are always busy; but not this year.

Here in Mombasa, there are just a few beachgoers as thousands of regular visitors have avoided the coastal city.

Abdallah Omar sells bathing suits and he said business was down due to fears over security.

"For all the years I have been here, this year business has been bad. If I compare it with the last six years business was fairly good. This year I don't think kids will go to school," he said.

Mombasa has witnessed a wave of violent attacks and killings of suspected terror suspects and clerics.

In the past year, police have stormed Musa mosque in the rundown neighborhood of Majengo twice - temporarily closing down the mosque and three others.

Authorities have accused the leaders of some Mombasa mosques of radicalizing young men or recruiting for the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab - which has repeatedly attacked Kenya in the past several years.

Police here said there has been an uptick in attacks on civilians, government workers and moderate clerics by these radicalized young men.

The security situation has prompted Western countries to issue travel advisories to its citizens.

Tourism officials estimate at least $4 million in revenue has been lost so far.

Brian, a German tourist, said he was well aware of the terror warnings but he felt safe.

"I heard the travel warnings then I called the embassy. They were saying you have to be safe we raised the security and I try not to follow fears in general," said the tourist.

Alfred Mwenda, a sunglasses vendor, said people tend to confuse Mombasa and the whole coastal region with Lamu - which has seen deadly al-Shabab attacks.

"Those visitors who come from Nairobi, if they hear Mombasa or Lamu there is death and a terror attack. They see Mombasa like Lamu. Most don't know that Lamu is different from Mombasa," he said.

Business and hotel owners along the coast hope the New Year will bring a return of calm, and with it, the return of tourists.