What you need to know:
- The alert comes as Kenya hosts thousands of visitors who are in the country for WRC Safari Rally.
- Regulators says unlicensed operators risk prosecution, and 12 months in jail and other penalties, if convicted.
Unscrupulous hotels and restaurants are giving themselves false star-ratings to dupe unsuspecting tourists, the sector regulator has warned.
This alert comes especially at a time thousands of visitors have invaded Kenya to attend the World Rally Championship Safari Rally, which has revved off yesterday.
Event organisers expect about 10,000 visitors to flock Naivasha, where the rally is taking place with the business boom expected to inject at least Sh6 billion into the economy, according to government estimates.
“The Tourism Regulatory Authority would like to notify the public that it has come to our attention that some restaurants and hotels have been marketing themselves as having attained various star ratings from this authority yet this is untrue, misleading and punishable by law,” TRA said in a notice on Thursday.
The authority is in charge of giving ratings to local facilities.
TRA said yesterday: “That it has come to attention the existence of unlicensed online tour guides and companies that have been defrauding unsuspecting tourists and ending up pulling down their websites and Facebook accounts after receiving payments.”
The authority warned that unlicensed operators of cottages, guest houses, villas, serviced apartments, home stays, and hostels marketing themselves on online booking platforms without valid licences risk prosecution, and 12 months in jail and other penalties, if convicted.
TRA concerns come at a time the tourism and hospitality industry is gradually bouncing back after a freeze on international travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic that stopped inflow of tourists into the country.
The authority also warned that other unlicensed companies that purport to offer tour services online have also sprung up and solicit money from tourists before pulling down their websites and vanishing into thin air once they are paid.
TRA has appraised 60 hotels and restaurants within the greater Nairobi region, 49 at the Coast, 48 in the South Rift, and 15 and 6 in the former Western and Eastern provinces respectively with star ratings, ranging from one to five.
The Tourism Act 2011, which established TRA, gives the authority the mandate to “register, licence and grade all sustainable tourism and tourist-related activities and services, including cottages and private residences engaged in guest house services”.