Protecting Livelihoods on Mombasa's North Coast

Protecting Livelihoods on Mombasa's North Coast

In 2011, a three year project to improve the livelihoods of Beach Operators in Mombasa kicked off. The project was funded through a ST-EP Destination Management Fund, a partnership between the Travel Foundation (TF), UNWTO and the UNWTO ST-EP Foundation, and was led by the Kenya Coast and Tourism Association.

This project focussed on working with the Mombasa North Coast Beach Operators (including safari guides, massage sellers, boat operators, photographers, Samburu warriors, community traders and curio sellers) and looked to build on the existing structure of the association already in place.

The aim was to support the long term sustainability of tourism along the Kenyan coast through strengthening livelihoods for beach operators, improving their interaction with tourists, and minimising tourist hassle. Following an assessment of the needs of the various beach operators, a curriculum was developed and 21 training workshops were rolled out to 573 beach operators. Training included topics such as tour guiding skills, relationship building with stakeholders and personal financial management.
Having up-skilled beach operators, the project's attention turned to relationship building and stakeholder engagement, in particular between hoteliers and beach operators. As a result of the project, seven hotels now have either formal Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) or informal agreements with curio sellers to sell inside their hotels on specific days of the week. All 450 members of the curio association benefit from this arrangement, and organise a rota with the hotel management to sell inside the hotels on their specific stretch of beach. At the beginning of the project 45% of beach operators rated their relationship with hotels as 'good' or 'very good', and at the end of the project this had increased to 75%. This is a huge step forward in offering the beach operators a secure platform to sell from, and it benefits curio producers, hoteliers and their customers alike.

Hoteliers who once had poor relationships with beach operators now have strong reason to work together to provide an excellent service to holidaymakers. Based on exit surveys, Kenya Tourist Board has reported that between 2010 and 2014 beach hassle had significantly reduced in the area, thanks to the improved interaction between beach operators and tourists.

In December 2014, the project concluded with a graduation ceremony for all 573 beach operators that had completed training. During the ceremony, they were presented with a certificate and a branded project t-shirt to where whilst working to make them easily recognisable as trained workers. During the beach operator’s graduation ceremony, the Mombasa County Governor H.E Hassan Joho publically pledged to fund and support a further 500 beach operators through the programme in 2015.

This project has helped to demonstrated how the tourism industry can collectively work to strengthen local livelihoods, provide a better service for holidaymakers, and build the foundations for a sustainable tourism structure for all.

To read the full results of the project, please visit: