Covid-19: Rising infections worry hoteliers

Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers boss Sam Ikwaye, Kenya Tourist Association CEO Julius Owino and Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya Mombasa chairperson Patricia Njeria.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Mombasa is one of five counties declared a coronavirus hotspot.
  • The number of daily infections has risen to more than 400 in the last one month, compared to September.

Tourism stakeholders in Mombasa are a worried lot following an increase in Covid-19 cases.

The players are afraid visitors will shun the region if the situation does not change.

Thousands of hotel workers who had been laid off resumed duty in early August when the government relaxed Covid-19 containment measures.

Mombasa is one of five counties declared a coronavirus hotspot.

The others are Nairobi, Kericho, Nakuru and Turkana. There are fears the government may revert to tougher measures in a bid to contain the pandemic in these regions.  

Tourism improved

Kenya Hotelkeepers and Caterers Association Coast chief executive Sam Ikwaye said tourism has improved significantly, especially the domestic market.

“The situation is not as it was when hotels reopened. We have witnessed improvement. Unfortunately, the rising number of coronavirus cases will create fear in potential visitors. Industry stakeholders are afraid it might take them back. We could lose the gains we have already made in this short period,” Dr Ikwaye told the Saturday Nation.  

Tougher containment measures will hit the economy hard, paralysing activities at hotels and other businesses.

The number of daily infections has risen to more than 400 in the last one month, compared to September.
For about six months, hotels closed due to measures taken by the government to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said the industry, a key player in the country’s GDP, lost up to Sh80 billion during the mini-lockdown.

Dr Ikwaye said though tourism has not fully recovered, some hotels are recording average occupancy by domestic visitors travelling for leisure, business and conferences.

Fall in numbers

Kenya Tourism Federation chairman  Mohammed Hersi, expressed fears of a fall in numbers.

He said there has been progress, with domestic tourists dominating the market, adding that stakeholders had hoped  countries in East Africa would open up to increase the flow.

“We cannot thank the domestic market enough. It has been a game of prices for hotels, coupled with value for the clients’ money. Business owners now see that it is important to make it affordable for local visitors,” Mr Hersi said.

He added that hotels and other establishments were recovering, with some reporting a bed occupancy of 50 to 70 per cent. However, those that have not adjusted their prices are still recording low rates.

Travellers Beach Resort General Manager Hillary Siele said a second wave of the virus would threaten the recovery of the industry and lead to job losses again.

This is despite hotels coming up with customer safety measures.
“This is not good for us. We had already made progress and 80 per cent of our workers have resumed,” he said, adding that the hotel registered a 10 per cent occupancy when it first reopened, but the figure has shot to 80.

 To cut costs and remain afloat, hotels sent their workers on unpaid leave in April. The remaining few had their salaries cut.
Mr Hersi said many hotels are observing Ministry of Health protocols.

Social distancing

“Our clients are careful. They are doing what they would have done in their homes to ensure they do not contract coronavirus,” he said.

Hotels insist on social distancing, wearing face masks, sanitising hands and discouraging handshakes.
They have also done away with buffets while visitors eat in shifts to avoid congestion.

Kenya Coast Tourism Association chief executive Julius Owino said the rising Covid-19 cases are a reason to worry, considering that many establishments are yet to recover from the lockdown.

“Some some tours and travel companies have not resumed business because of money challenges,” he said.

No hotel in Mombasa has had a suspected Covid-19 case since reopening.

Mr Owino attributes this to the establishments strictly following guidelines set by the ministry.

Pride Inn Flamingo General Manager Victor Shitakah said Mombasa hotels are  receiving visitors since many organisations and State agencies hold conferences at the Coast.

“We host businesspeople attending conferences during the weekdays and those coming for leisure during weekends. Business is slowly on the recovery trajectory,” he said.


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