?Visitors from all walks of life have flocked to Lamu town for the annual Lamu Cultural Festival that kicks off today (Thursday).
Several activities, including Swahili poetry, Henna painting and Bao competition are lined up for the four-day festival that ends on Sunday, with the highlight being the donkey race.
The 17th edition of the annual fete comes against the backdrop of depressed tourist numbers to the island that has been reeling from heightened terror attacks as well as the effects of a prolonged electioneering period in the country.
This year’s festival is themed Peace and Co-existence (Amani na Maridhiano).
Tourism players, however, are upbeat this year’s event will be a success, with flights to the town already fully booked.
Airlines such as Skyward Express, which operates daily flights to Lamu from its Wilson Airport hub, said it was fully booked for the week.
Another low-cost carrier, Fly540, which flies to Lamu from Nairobi via Malindi, has also reported that all its flights are fully booked.
Bus companies that offer daily services from Mombasa to Lamu have also reported full bookings in the week preceding the festival.
Hotels on the island have also reported increased bookings ahead of the event. Lamu Old Town was declared a World Heritage Site in 2001, a status that event organiser Lamu Cultural Promotion Group (LCPG) Chairman Ghalib Alwy said had elevated its appeal as a tourist destination.
He said on Wednesday that security had been beefed up.
“The festival has been growing from strength to strength every year, providing a platform for empowering the people of Lamu," said Mr Ghalib. County Deputy Governor Abdulhakim Aboud told The Standard more visitors were expected to attend this year’s event despite previous security concerns that he said had been addressed.