Aturukan Hotel

Aturukan Hotel in Kitale.

| File | Nation Media Group

Western Kenya hotels roar back to life

Hoteliers in the western region hospitality circuit are optimistic about better sales this festive season, as December and New Year bookings pick up.

Industry players hope that with the easing of Covid-19 containment measures, including the lifting of the night curfew, domestic and foreign visitor numbers will be better than the previous year.

Many hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs have reported increased sales.

The Lake Victoria Tourism Association says hotels in the Western region have recorded up to a 10 per cent increase in visitors over the past three months, good news for the hospitality sector in the region that was on its knees at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Air travel demand in the region has also risen, with local airlines increasing daily flights at Kisumu International Airport.

Busia Tourism Association secretary-general Kubasu Duncan says they have seen an increase in bookings and transit customers.

“We only ask if they can increase the number of people attending weddings and conferences. Most clients want to book for large crowds but due to Covid-19 protocols they can’t,” he said.

Joventure Hotel Kisumu manager John Ayuko said the projections are encouraging with the rise in functions and activities in hotels.

“I strongly believe the industry is on the recovery path. We have several functions currently and the accommodation business is on the rise,” he said.

Aturukan Hotel Kitale manager Suleiman Wanda said domestic tourism had picked up, with families touring the Western circuit over the weekends.

Some hotels have recorded full bookings, noted Lake Victoria Tourism Association chairman Robinson Anyal.

“On average the industry is picking up, although the trend is irregular, but much better than where we have been,” he said.

At this time last year, most hotels had closed and retained a lean number of workers. Bed occupancy oscillated between five and 10 per cent in most hotels.

Mr Anyal said that as new Covid-19 cases drop in the region, conferencing businesses have increased in the region.

“There is an increase in accommodation and conference, with 99 per cent being from the domestic market,” he said.

Kisumu County Tourism executive Achie Alai said conference and business tourism in the area has improved after the government eased Covid-19 restrictions.

The number of people travelling to Kisumu for business and leisure by air daily, she said, tripled from 1,000 in August to 3,000 in October.

Six airlines, she added, were operating at least two daily flights each to Kisumu International Airport with the potential of increasing the number of flights given the rising demand.

An additional 3,000 people drive to Kisumu in their personal cars, especially during the weekends, for business and to sample the lakeside city’s rich entertainment menu, she said.

Ms Alai said more visitors are expected to come through the passenger train that is expected to kick off operations by December.