By PHILIP MWAKIO
Mombasa, Kenya: Visitors to the Fort Jesus Museum, a World Heritage Site in Mombasa County, have been decreasing as tourism numbers continue to take a beating.
Local and international tourism at the Kenyan coast has been falling due to fear of terrorism, travel advisories and troubled economic times in key Western European nations.
According to the Museum’s Principal Curator, Saadhu Hashim, the general dwindling tourist numbers have had a direct bearing on the number of visitors coming to the museum.
National Museums of Kenya (NMK) officials say despite Fort Jesus Museum being a World Heritage Site after its gazettement in 2011, it has not seen increased visits.
This is despite the fact that any cultural heritage site which is granted World Heritage Site status gets instant boost as people flock in to sample the rare attractions and rich cultural heritage preserved there. Statistics by NMK on visitation to Fort Jesus Museum over a nine-year period from 2004 to 2013 shows that a total of 1,482,797 people visited.The museum has a holding capacity of 400,000 people per year.
The highest visitation, according to the statistics, was during the 2011-2012 period when 203,234 people visited the museum.
The period between 2011/2012 had a total of 199,353 while 2012/2013 attracted 155,266 , a reduction of about 40,000 from the previous year.
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According to Galgalo Rashid Abdi, the acting Principal Curator at Lamu, World Heritage Site status is fast becoming a major factor that motivates tourists’ choice of where to visit while on holiday, and so countries that are fortunate to have areas on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage sites are advantaged.
Unesco seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.
“Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations,’’ Galgalo said.
He said a people’s cultural and natural heritage is both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.
‘’World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory in which they are located,’’ Galgalo points out.
He says visitors from upcountry and outside Kenya should consider a stop-over to explore these authentic sites. This, he says, will give tourists insights into the culture and heritage of the local communities.