On beach beds under palm trees in Kenya’s Diani Beach, the usual throng of swimsuit-clad tourists dozing in the sun has been replaced by a more industrious crowd of laptop-bashers. Over the sound of the ocean comes the murmur of business jargon. Above the gurgling call of black-and-white colobus monkeys reverberates the cry of the anguished executive: “I’ll circle back by cob.” When covid-19 struck, it dealt a grievous blow to Kenya’s tourism industry, which generates about 9% of gdp. With airports shut and many travellers in the rich world locked in their homes, the number of foreign tourists visiting Kenya slumped by almost three-quarters. Najib Balala, Kenya’s tourism minister, warned that the industry was on the verge of collapse.
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