Empty pockets dim Christmas cheer

Sunday, December 22nd, 2019 21:02 |
Passengers stranded at the Machakos Country Bus Station yesterday because of shortage of public transport vehicles. Photo/PD/John Ochieng

Kenyans across the country are preparing to usher in the festivities with many complaining the lean times have poured cold water on the Christmas spirit.

In Nairobi, there was a last-minute rush to secure transport by residents travelling upcountry.

A spot check by People Daily yesterday showed some were stranded as fares to most destinations more than doubled.

At the Machakos Country Bus station, John Wambua and his son were shocked when they realised that fare to Matuu, Machakos county, had risen more than three times from Sh250 to Sh900. 

“I thought this time round I would avoid the high fares but it seems impossible.

In a normal day, we pay around Sh250, but today we have to pay Sh900 which is hard to raise because of the tough economic situation,” said Wambua.

Booking offices of long-distance bus companies in the capital have been a hive of activity.

James Mong’are, a conductor working for Malboro, a bus company which plies the Nairobi-Nyamira route, said Kenyans were still travelling upcountry for Christmas holidays, the high cost of living notwithstanding.

All smiles

In normal days, travelling to Nyamira costs between Sh600 and Sh700 but yesterday they were charging between Sh1,700 and Sh1,900.

The situation was the same for travellers to Mombasa which is a favourite destination for many holiday makers.

For traders in Eastleigh, it was all smiles as many customers trooped in to buy Christmas attire.

But for Evelyn Awino, there isn’t much to celebrate, saying she had not been making any profits.

Awino, a fish seller, complained sales had dropped drastically as many people opt for meat during the festivities. “I am making losses. Most of my loyal customers are now eating meat,” she said.

In Mombasa, traders said they were feeling the pinch of low cash flow.

In Kongowea market, where many shop for food and clothing, prices have skyrocketed. 

“I used to make Sh2,000 but we are witnessing decline in clients. People are complaining that the economy is hard on them. It is true people are struggling to make ends meet,” said Boniface Fadhili, a shoe trader at the Kongowea market.

Vincent Opiyo, a security guard manning a tourist hotel in Mombasa, said he will not travel to his rural home in Vihiga county because he would have to cough up more than Sh6,000 in fare.

“I have decided to stay because travelling home with my wife and two children means I will have to spend all the fees for January. I have decided to save some money for school fees,” said Opiyo.

Hotels  and other holiday resorts at the coast also say many people seem to have opted to travel to their rural homes instead of the coast. 

“Many of our normal clients have opted to stay away while new ones are coming in,” said Wafula Waswa of Travelers Beach resort.

Comply with guidelines

At the same time, tourists visiting the Coast have been asked to comply with water safety guidelines to minimise accidents.

“Those boarding vessels or boats for recreational sails or for water transport need to ensure they put on life jackets at all times while sailing.

The public is advised to board only seaworthy vessels that are insured and licensed by KMA,” said Kenya Maritime Authority director George Nyamoko.

Meanwhile, traders who operated businesses at the refurbished Mama Ngina Water Front have urged the government to  re-open  it to the public this festive season.

Traders have expressed disappointment that the tourist attraction centre, which normally attracts huge crowds during holidays, has remained closed since it was launched during the Mashujaa Day Celebrations by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

 “Mama Ngina water front attracts international and domestic tourist hence closing it during the festive season will kill the county’s economy.

Why did they launch it in the first place if the work was incomplete,” said Mary Muthoni, famously known as Mama Cowrie Shells, who operated at the facility before it was closed.

Ochieng Omondi, an ice-cream vendor said he used to make close to Sh2,000 a day but since it was closed for renovation, he can’t even make Sh500.

“If they re-open it, I can make more than Sh3,000 a day,” added Omondi.

The iconic seaside public park only opened to the public when it hosted the Mashujaa Day celebrations on October 20.

The park, sitting on 26 acres overlooking the Kilindini Channel in Mombasa, has now been transformed into an integrated urban tourist attraction site.

In Nakuru, indigenous chicken farmers who had planned well for the Christmas season are smiling all the way to the bank because the prices have shot up by 50 per cent in the last one week.

Rhoda Chebet said for the last three years, she has learnt the importance of timing the market, and that knowledge has assisted her to make profits. 

Speaking in Nakuru town yesterday, Chebet said she has 250 indigenous chickens and in the last one week, she has sold 70 of them for between Sh1,000 and Sh1,400, depending on the size. 

She said the prices had risen from Sh500 and Sh700 last month. —Stories by Harrison Kivisu, Bonface Msangi, Alvin Mwangi and KNA

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