Hoteliers count losses as 'Maandamano' hit tourism sector

Members of the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Tourism and Wildlife

Members of the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Tourism and Wildlife led by chairperson Kareke Mbiuki (left) during a tour of the cruise ship terminal at the port of Mombasa yesterday.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

The ongoing political crisis has adversely affected the hospitality sector with hotel cancellations reported in the Coast and parts of Rift Valley.

A cruise ship destined for the port of Mombasa changed course to Tanzania. The MV Seabourn Sojourn, sailing from Mahe, Seychelles, with 800 tourists will now dock in Zanzibar and Dar el Salaam for six days before sailing to South Africa.

It began its voyage in Miami, Florida, in January. The voyage will end on May 27 in Barcelona, Spain. Kenya was on the itinerary. The Seabourn Sojourn is sailing for 140 days, visiting 58 ports in 27 countries and six continents with 12 overnights.

“We have lost a lot of money. From past experience, each passenger spends a minimum of about $200 (Sh26,000) a day. For three days that’s $600 (Sh79,000), We have lost $800,000 (Sh105,744,000), assuming each would have spent that amount,” said Mr Masemo.

At the Masai Mara National Reserve and in Nakuru County, hotels are counting losses running into millions of shillings.

The nation has established that dozens of local and international tourists have cancelled bookings ahead of the Easter holidays. Lilita Kepper Camp Manager Nicholas Murero said the establishment had lost about 10 international bookings in the past two weeks. Mr Simon Tira from Samadep Tour Camp said they have lost 14 tourists from the United Kingdom who were to spend two weeks at their facility. 

East Africa Tour Guides and Drivers Association Chairman Felix Migoya said the protests were creating a negative image for the region's tourism.

Mr Migoya said the protests might erode the gains the tourism sector made after recovering from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic period.

Enashipai Hotel Director James Mwangi said bookings had fallen past 50 per cent, compared to previous years.

The National Assembly Departmental Committee on Tourism and Wildlife, which is chaired by Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki and which met with players in the cruise ship business at the port of Mombasa, said Kenya has lost millions of shillings due to the cancellation. Separately, Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Peninah Malonza said most international tourists have cancelled their travel and hotel bookings in Kenya after last Monday’s protest which paralysed businesses in the capital Nairobi.

Mr Mbiuki said the Sh1.3 billion cruise ship terminal is unlikely to be used due to bad politics.

“We have so far received around four cruise ships and were expecting another mid-April but the vessel has been cancelled due to the current state of our country,” said Mr Mbiuki.

Ms Malonza said unless Azimio leaders call off the mass protests, there will be massive job losses in the hotel industry in the coming weeks, coupled with depressed tax revenues and more economic pain for all Kenyans.

Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers Coast Executive Officer Sam Ikwaye and Pollmans Tours and Safaris Operations Director Mohammed Hersi termed the cruise ship’s cancellation a major blow.

Reporting by Winnie Atieno, Kitavi Mutua, Robert Kiplagat and Macharia Mwangi