Coast hotels banking on conferencing for faster recovery

Tour vans parked in Mombasa as the sector remained shaky following Covid-19 pandemic in this picture taken on 29 Oct 2020

Photo credit: Laban Waloga I Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • This comes as the meetings and conferences sector in Nairobi remains slow, due to its high dependence on international business tourism.

Hotels at the Coast are banking on conferences and meetings to boost the sector as the industry slowly recovers.

In the past two months, hotels have enjoyed higher bookings and occupancy rates thanks to corporate and government organisations hosting their meetings in the Mombasa-based establishments.

This comes as the meetings and conferences sector in Nairobi remains slow, due to its high dependence on international business tourism.

Kenya Coast Working Group Chairperson Husnain Noorani said the industry has been staying afloat thanks to county governments and national government, who have been holding their meetings in the establishments.

"There has been a remarkable turnaround of hotels in Mombasa and this has supported us," he said.

Big Boost

It has been a big boost to the meetings, incentives, conferences and events tourism sector that the country is promoting.
Corporate bodies and NGOs are also holding meetings and team-building activities.

Mr Noorani called on more corporates to support the hotel and tourism sector by organising more events.

He was speaking at Pride Inn Paradise in Shanzu where the hotel marked the beginning of the December festive season during a cake mixing ceremony.

This season is usually the peak where hotels record 90 per cent bookings due to increased travel and families going for holidays.

However, Noorani said that due to the rise in Covid-19 numbers, the uncertainty among Kenyans over a possible cessation of movement and travel has affected bookings, which are 50 per cent less compared to the same time last year.

"There have been many inquiries about the Christmas holiday and bookings. But many of the customers are afraid that the government may impose another lock-down come December 4," he said.

"The government should clear this so that people can plan ahead."

Kenya Coast Tourism Association Chairperson Victor Shitakah said hotels have been busy in the past few weeks holding conferences while enjoying full bookings due to the reduced costs.

"There is no hotel that has set rates which are not negotiable. Everybody is looking for business and how to work so we can have a standard price. We have reduced accommodation rates," he said.

"We have experienced a high demand for conferences and this is helping us in recovery. Many families have been unable to travel due to increased cases of Covid-19 in the country," he said.

The Pride Inn Flamingo General Manager said that a lot of people are skeptical because they have been seeing a rise in Covid-19 numbers and they are calling hotels to ask if they have put in protocols.

However, he said no hotel can guarantee their safety, but they have set protocols which they ensure are followed.

The industry continues to fully rely on local tourism with the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) highly applauded by stakeholders for easing transport between Mombasa and Nairobi.

Currently, international tourism bookings at the Coast are at two per cent while locals have taken up 55 per cent.

Mr Noorani urged the government to relax measures to encourage international tourists to visit the country.

Since its reopening in late July, the tourism sector has been on a slow recovery path constrained by an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases.

Tourists waiting to be ferried  for Safari's after disembarking from a Cruise ship in this picture taken on 13 May 2020.

Photo credit: Laban Waloga I Nation Media Group

A recent report by the government indicates that the tourism industry will this year lose Sh72 billion due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani said hotels alone are expected to suffer Sh56 billion losses.

The Treasury said it would establish a Sh3 billion stimulus hotel refurbishment fund that will help in the recovery of the sector.

However, Mr Noorani said most Coast hotels have applied for the stimulus package and are still looking forward to hearing from the Tourism Finance Corporation.