Hotels peg hopes on holiday season, recall 3,000 workers

Tourists enjoy themselves at the Flamingo PrideInn Beach Resort in Mombasa on October 24. More than 3,000 workers who had been laid off following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic have been recalled as hoteliers hope to take advantage of the Christmas holidays to stage a comeback. Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Many of the beach hotels have shut down entirely until next year while others are struggling to stay afloat.
  • A few have opted to rely on domestic tourists by enticing them with affordable rates.

Hotels have recalled more than 3,000 workers following their reopening, with investors targeting tourists trooping to the Coast for the Christmas holidays. 

Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers, Mombasa and Kwale branch secretary Zack Osore said workers have adapted to “the new normal” including wearing face masks, gloves and shields to minimise contact with guests.

“We are glad that over 3,000 hotel workers are back, which is 60 percent of the workforce. After every two weeks, they are tested for Covid-19 to ensure their health and safety,” Mr Osore told the Nation.

He added that most hotels in the North Coast, especially Malindi, are yet to reopen and described the tourism hub frequented by Italians as a dead zone.

“You know Malindi is an Italian hub and Italy was adversely affected by the pandemic. We are hoping the workers will be recalled once the sector picks up,” he added.

Mr Osore said most hoteliers have opted to give their workforce accommodation within their places of work to minimise the risk of contracting the virus.

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast Executive Dr Sam Ikwaye said Covid-19 had hit the sector hard: “All our hopes are on the Christmas holidays. We want to reap from domestic tourists who have been our biggest supporters during this trying moments.” 

He urged tourism sector players to embark on rigorous marketing strategies, noting that the holiday season will bring international tourists to the coast to enjoy the warm weather.

Containment measures put in place by the government including the closure of the airspace, travel restrictions and partial lockdowns dealt a devastating blow to the economy. Thousands of workers were rendered jobless when hotels were shut down due to lack of business.

As the second wave leads to a rise in infections, hoteliers have been forced to rely on skeleton staff to cut down on costs.

Many of the beach hotels have shut down entirely until next year while others are struggling to stay afloat. A few have opted to rely on domestic tourists by enticing them with affordable rates.

Foreign tourists

On September 1, the Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics estimated that around 1.7 million Kenyans had lost their jobs. The unemployment rate doubled to 10.4 percent compared to 5.2 percent in March when the first case of the virus was reported.

Kenya Tourism Federation chairman Mohammed Hersi has been challenging the state to relax some of the rules to attract foreign tourists running away from the winter. He said the tourism sector will bounce back and urged hoteliers to reopen.

“You cannot keep on complaining about bad business when you are still closed. Tanzania and Egypt relaxed their rules while the Maldives decided to open their doors. Why are we stopping the planes that are going to bring these tourists? Nobody who is sick is going to fly anyway,” insisted Mr Hersi.

Last week, the industry players highlighted the recovery measures that they have put in place to boost the sector ahead of the December holidays. 

Key among them are branding, awareness creation, communication, accessibility, experience, partnerships and security.

Mombasa has been categorised as the leading destination for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (known in tourism parlance as “mice”), while Diani is a designated family holiday destination. 

Malindi attracts nightlife enthusiasts and retirees while Watamu is renowned for marine life. Lamu attracts tourists who love culture and history while Tsavo and Tana River are for scenic and wildlife tourists. Tourism chief administrative secretary Joseph Boinett urged hoteliers to adhere to the health protocols.

“The pandemic has impacted us to the point that, even in our game parks, we have seen a decline of up to 90 percent. But when President Uhuru Kenyatta reopened the economy, we saw gradual revival of the sector,” said the CAS last week.

Recently, Tourism CS Najib Balala termed 2020 as the most difficult year due to the outbreak of the pandemic that has brought the sector to its knees.

“Tourism is on its knees, but I want to thank Kenyans for coming out, travelling and supporting the industry. Every traveller opens up a new job opportunity for our people,” he said.

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