While "vacant white sand beaches" still line parts of the coast, overdevelopment is invading. Local residents rarely benefit from the tourism industry, which is dominated by walled-off all-inclusive resorts. The United Nations has begun to implement a sustainable tourism management initiative, offering some hope for the future.
Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:
"Some good examples of mangrove conservation near Malindi, but lots of terrible damage to coral reefs off the beach. This is thanks to sewage pollution from resorts, poor visitor management and guidance (people walking on coral), and people feeding fish from glass-bottomed boats. Most resorts are foreign owned, and few local businesses are involved in coastal tourism. The region's cultural heritage is rarely promoted. Most artisans have to sell crafts from the beaches and have very poor conditions for their stalls. They are excluded from most of the hotels, and therefore there are problems with them hassling tourists on beaches. Petty crime is also a problem. I hope it will improve. The U.N.I.D.O/G.E.F-funded C.O.A.S.T. program should help."
"As I drove up the coast from Mombasa to Malindi, I asked myself if the tourism development model was appropriate. While driving along the coastal road passing large walled resorts on one side of the road and poverty on the other, I realized how badly jobs were needed and that the all-inclusive model has changed the destination completely. Malindi was a wonderful change—the resorts were still foreign owned, but they were not walled."
"Tourism facilities are abundant. It is a worry that tourism dividends are not trickling down to the local residents. "
"Swahili culture fading in favor of all-inclusive, intrusive mass tourism."