23 December 2009

Kenya: Classification of Hotels Begins Next Year

Local and international tourists will now find it easier to select hotels that suit their tastes following the appointment of a new team that will oversee the professional rating of all hotels in the country.

The Hotels and Restaurants Authority (HRA) board launched on Tuesday by the Minister for Tourism, Mr Najib Balala, will be charged with ensuring hotels and restaurants across the country are classified according to the East Africa Community criteria adopted by member countries recently.

HRA was established under the Hotels and Restaurants Act.

Mr Balala said classification of hotels will start early next year, adding that the new board will regulate standards in the hospitality industry.

The exercise was last conducted in 2002.

The delay in carrying out a nationwide classification has left hotels with the same old ratings despite investing heavily to improve their facilities.

"The benefits accrued from classification cannot be underestimated. We want to ensure there is quality in the industry," Mr Balala said during the inauguration.

He noted that the exercise is meant to assure clients of the high standards and quality service Kenya has to offer.

In addition, classification creates uniformity in the hotel industry as there are common elements in every class that a client can expect ranging from the type of services to facilities offered.

Classification assessors from the region recently underwent training on the East Africa Community criteria a move which will see all the member states adopt the same standards just as in countries such as Scandinavia, East Asia and Europe.

The last classification sparked off a major controversy and has never been rectified despite major appeals by disgruntled players.

The common practice is that hotels are rated from one to five stars, mainly by the industry, and this rating is used to base the expectations of visitors in terms of quality.

The rating of hotels fall under the HRA, which is mandated to classify hotels into classes in accordance with standards and principles which the board determines and reflect international practice.

The classification is then gazetted, giving a hotel the legal mandate to market itself as a five or one star unit.

In February next Mr Balala will lead a delegation to South Africa to borrow from their industry's experience before initiating the rating process in the country.

In South Africa rating is carried out by a private organisation.

The new board comprises of nine individuals from across the industry and was gazetted last month. Ms Jane Manasseh is the chairperson.

However, missing from the board are representatives from hotels, restaurants and employees as provided under the Act.

The law stipulates that the chairperson be appointed by the minister and a maximum of nine people appointed by the minister.

Out of this, one person shall be appointed due to his knowledge of the industry, while another shall be appointed to represent the interests of the industry.

Hotel Keepers are represented by the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers (KAHC) while restaurants fall under the Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurant Association of Kenya (PERAK).

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