Local tourists play water polo game

Local tourists play a water polo game at the Bamburi Beach Hotel in Mombasa. The tourism sector is enjoying booming business from local visitors and conferencing, particularly with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

| File | Nation Media Group

Local tourists fill up hotels before Christmas

The tourism sector is enjoying booming business from local visitors and conferencing, particularly with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

At the Coast, local tourists are flocking to the region to enjoy the December festivities following a slump in international tourism due to Covid-19 fears.

Hoteliers, who are now pegging their recovery on domestic tourists, said the attractive festive packages and incentives have enticed local tourists who have thronged the destination.

Hotels in the region, which has around 40,000 beds, are enjoying around 80 percent bed occupancy, with most tourists being locals. For the Christmas holidays, hotels are fully booked. 

Hoteliers have partnered with airlines and the standard gauge railway to ferry tourists to the Coast. 

Kilifi’s Silver Palm Spa and Resort general manager, Mr Michel Otieno, said the fly-in package where hotels, the railway and airlines have partnered, has boosted hotel bookings. 

Local tourists Mombasa

Guests join hotel staff at the Travellers Beach Hotel in Mombasa during the lighting of the Christmas tree on December 11, 2021. Coast hotels are recording a high numbers of tourists, especially locals, as Kenyans enjoy special holiday packages.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

Focus on local market

Kenya Coast Tourism Association CEO Julius Owino said hoteliers have realised they should focus on the local market, which has filled most hotels. 

“But they should tailor their products and prices towards the domestic niche, for instance charging fairly because they are our lifeline after a slump in international travels due to the imposed restrictions,” said Mr Owino.

However, hoteliers lamented over the government directive barring unvaccinated Kenyans from accessing hotels from December 21.

The move, said the industry players, had led to cancellations.

“We recovered because it’s the peak season. The international market has slumped, we are now 99 per cent reliant on domestic tourists, which is now the lifeline for tourism in Kenya,” said Taita Hills and Salt Lick Safaris Lodge General Manager Willie Mwadilo.

Coast tourism players have termed the directive unfair, saying it will cripple the sector that is recovering from the pandemic shock.

Jacaranda Beach Hotel in Diani

Tourists enjoy at the Jacaranda Beach Hotel in Diani on December 7, 2021. Hoteliers are expecting a booming business as local tourists go to the Coast for Christmas festivities.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

Proof of vaccination

Kenyans were also instructed to show proof of vaccination when seeking transport services including when using domestic flights, the railway, buses and matatus. 

With the announcement of the Omicron variant, most European countries have banned international travel. This has affected Kenya’s tourism sector that heavily relies on international tourists.

Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala condemned countries discriminating against Africa due to the Omicron variant.

“South Africa and Botswana were punished due to their transparency in the announcement of the new variant. We knew about Scotland, Holland, but no action was taken. The double standards in this game are where we are concerned,” Mr Balala said during the International Tourism and Investment Conference (ITIC) recently.

The CS said the travel ban is a major concern for Africa.

“The traffic lights regime including red, yellow and green listing (of countries according to their Covid-19 infection numbers) is a concern to the travel industry. If we want the economy and travel to open up, we need to have clarity and justice. We should stop panicking,” he added.

Conference tourism

In Nakuru County, players in the hospitality industry are reaping big from conference tourism.

According to the Nakuru County Tourism Association (NCTA) Chairman David Mwangi, 75 per cent of current bookings are primarily on conferencing.

This was due to the lifting of the Covid-19 restrictions, with both government and corporate entities holding meetings to deliberate on crucial issues, he explained.

“Walk to any of the hotels within Naivasha and you will realise conference facilities are fully booked. A clear testimony that the industry is opening up,” said Mr Mwangi.

“A tourism focal point, Naivasha is a visitor’s destination and attractive recreational spot both for local and international visitors,” added Mr Mwangi.

Christmas bookings, the hotelier added, had increased by almost 30 per cent compared to last year, projecting 90 per cent booking ahead of the festivities.

“The only problem we are currently having is the short holidays for school going children but, generally, the industry is enjoying a rebound,” stated Mr Mwangi.

Bookings for next year’s World Rally Championship (WRC) had begun, with international visitors eager to secure a place ahead of the global event.

Host world visitors

He stated that they had conducted a “post-mortem” to discuss the misses and hits during the global event and were now better placed to host the world visitors.

The event, which was live on global TV did not only put the country on the global map, but Nakuru and Naivasha towns benefited.

According to Hylise Hotel Assistant Manager Seaman Otanga, bookings had shot up to 91 per cent and the hotel was struggling to accommodate conference visitors.

“We have little to complain about … the industry is looking up and we hope the best is yet to come,” he said.

The manager said the hotel was fully booked ahead of the Christmas period: “We have run out of rooms.”

The hotel is among the most popular in Naivasha, having hosted high profile dignitaries during the WRC event.

Former Nakuru County Chamber of Commerce chairman Njuguna Kamau said most of the hoteliers were likely to recoup the losses they made last year.

“We are likely to see the rehiring of workers who were laid off due to the ripple effect of the coronavirus,” he observed.

He said the bookings in most of the hotels were at about 70 percent, and expected to reach 90 per cent during the Christmas period.