Relax Covid rules to save industry, hoteliers urge

Hotel workers clean up a beach

Hotel workers clean up a beach in Mombasa on August 8, 2021.

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

Hoteliers in Mombasa County want Covid-19 rules relaxed, saying, this will save the industry from imminent collapse.

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers boss Sam Ikwaye said the hospitality industry was under threat.

 “We need to sit down with the officials from the ministries of Health and Tourism to chart a way forward for the industry. The entire 2020 was a wasted year and 2021 is no better,” Dr Ikwaye said, while accusing policymakers in the government of turning a blind eye to their plight.

“We are requesting policymakers to relax the Covid-19 guidelines in order to save the sector,”he said. His sentiments were echoed by Kenya Safari Lodges and Hotels Limited General Manager Joseph Ndunda, who said the Covid-19 rules were harsh on the hospitality industry.

“Other sectors are operating normally. There is no social distancing in the trains even in the economy class same as supermarkets and malls,” Mr Ndunda said. He called on the government to support the industry.

Severin Sea Lodge General Manager Tuva Mwahunga said about 2, 400 hotel workers had already received their first Covid-19 jabs with hopes to vaccinate the rest soon.

“From November last year, there has been no single Covid-19 case that has been traced back to our hotels. This tells you that hotels are doing everything by the book,” Mr Mwahunga said.

Dr Ikwaye said the industry had projected a 70 to 80 per cent bed occupancy rate for the last quarter of the year, but this was now impossible.

“Our projections were that come August 1, we would be welcoming clients. We had very good projections for the fourth quarter of the year unlike in April when we lost business during Easter due to a surge in Covid-19 numbers,” he said.

Facing challenges

“With the recent directives by the Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, we are now facing challenges,” Dr Ikwaye said during a press conference at Mombasa Beach Hotel, adding that hotels in the region immediately experienced cancellations following the new guidelines announced by the CS.

“Tourism, travel and hospitality establishments shall ensure tourists and guests wear appropriate, quality personal protective equipment except when in their room, dining or in private with physical distancing in a hotel garden or at the beach,” Mr Balala in a press briefing in Nairobi on Tuesday last week.

Restaurants and eateries serving tourists have been directed to operate in strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols.

Some of the new rules the CS introduced include staff being issued with valid digital QR codes signifying vaccination, guests not being allowed to serve themselves and use of electronic menus.