Local and non-resident traders who have thronged the Lamu archipelago to attend the 20th edition of the Lamu Cultural Festival are upbeat that this year’s fete will bring a boom in business.
The festival kicked off on Thursday in Lamu Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage site.
Over 30,000 guests and tourists are expected to partake in the four-day event that runs to Sunday.
Lamu Governor Issa Timamy told Nation.Africa that high-ranking guests who had confirmed their attendance included Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, 10 governors and seven ambassadors.
Mr Mudavadi is expected to arrive in Lamu today and will be received at Manda Airport by Governor Timamy.
Qusai Rashed Al Farhan, the ambassador of the Sultanate of Kuwait, arrived in Lamu On Wednesday.
“All is set. The festival officially kicks off today. I have already received confirmation that DP Gachagua and [Mr] Mudavadi will attend the festival,” Mr Timamy said.
“There’s also a high possibility of Tourism Cabinet Secretary, Penina Malonza attending the fete.”
Business people told the Nation that they had high hopes that the festival will help them make more money.
Khadija Abubakar, a hawker from Matondoni village, said she had to pitch camp in Lamu Old Town during the festival because there are many customers there.
“I expect to sell many items and make a huge profit during the four days of the festival. There are many visitors and tourists who have thronged Lamu,” Ms Abubakar said.
Hoteliers, beach operators, shop owners, and dhow and boat owners are among traders already benefiting from the event.
Lamu Palace Hotel Manager Keziah Mumbi said rooms have been fully booked since last week.
“We’re happy that every time the Lamu Cultural Festival is organised, it always boosts the performance of our business. So far, my hotel rooms are already fully booked. We thank God,” said Ms Mumbi.
Transport businesses are also reaping from the event.
Flights from Nairobi, Mombasa and Malindi to Lamu were fully booked since the week began.
Mohamed Mwai of Modern Safaris and Tours, an air travel booking agency based in Lamu, said many people made inquiries but almost all airlines plying the Lamu route were fully booked until Saturday.
“There’s been no availability since yesterday. One can only get a seat from Saturday onwards. All airlines are fully booked at the moment, all thanks to the Lamu Cultural Festival,” Mr Mwai said.
Boat operators, matatu owners and private motorists are also making a killing because of the high number of travellers coming to Lamu by road from the rest of the country.
The festival is an annual event that showcases the rich culture and heritage of Lamu’s Swahili communities and is preceded by various competitions, led by donkey and mashua/jahazi (dhow) races, swimming, and traditional dances.
Other exhibitions lined up at this year’s festival include a fishing competition and a fish auction at the Mkunguni Square, cooking classes (for women only), Ladies' Night Bridal Display, poetry, and oral literature competitions, football matches, a music extravaganza, and taarab performances by Mzee Yusuf from Tanzania.
Tanzanian musician Abdul Juma Idd, popularly known as Lava Lava, will also perform.
Lava Lava, who is signed under Diamond Platnumz’s record label WCB Wasafi, will perform at the Mkunguni Square in Lamu town on Saturday from 10pm until dawn.
“I am a lover of bongo flava music and I can’t wait to see my favourite artiste Lava Lava performing live. That’s why I have made efforts to be here early enough,” said Diana Ngira, a tourist from Kisumu County.