Kenya: Hoteliers Fret Over Low Bookings as Christmas Holidays Beckon

1 December 2020

Tourism stakeholders are concerned over low bookings ahead of the December festivities, saying most people are afraid that the government will impose restrictions on movement to curb the spread of Covid-19.

A majority of the beach hotels at the coast are operating at between 40 and 55 percent capacity for local tourists and two percent for international ones. This is in stark contrast to last year, when the hotels operated at above 80 percent capacity for locals and 25 percent for international tourists, with industry players terming it the worst Christmas and New Year.

"We are getting a lot of enquiries. However, one of the looming fears that the Kenyan market has is that there might be another travel cessation so people are scared to book. International bookings are very low, practically non-existence," said Kenya Coast Working Group chairman Husnain Noorani.

He said that, when the government imposed restrictions on movements the first time, most holidaymakers were stuck at the Coast.

"Many couldn't travel back and obviously people were very scared and so there are fears the same might happen. For instance, in Mombasa cases are rising and the counties were given the authority by President Uhuru Kenyatta to impose any measures they wish. People are seeing how cases are surging and the county government might impose a lockdown," he said.

Speaking during a press conference at The Pride Inn hotel in Mombasa, Mr Noorani urged President Uhuru Kenyatta and Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala to clear the air.

"There is this fear that there is going to be another speech set to be held on December 4 where new measures will be announced and introduced. We all know how tourism is important to this country and this is where I request and urge the state to be clear about travel cessations. This will help the entire Kenyan coast and the industry," Mr Noorani said, adding that more Kenyans will be confident and start early bookings to the hotels that are reeling from the effects of the pandemic.

He further encouraged Kenyans to visit the local tourism attractions to promote the sector instead of travelling abroad. He said most hotels have set good offers and rates to attract domestic tourists.

Mr Noorani urged more flights to fly directly to Mombasa to boost the sector during the holidays. The hotelier further blamed the strict coronavirus protocol that has hampered international tourism numbers.

"There has been a lot of debate on the Covid-19 testing policies; there is the 72 hours requirement for every international visitor. We don't want to allow anyone in but there could be other ways, policy makers should sit with stakeholders to find solutions to encourage easier access to the country whilst protecting Kenyans," Mr Noorani while urging corporates and the government to support the tourism industry.

Mr Noorani is optimistic the regional and international tourism will pick up once the policy makers and industry players work on the impending challenges affecting the sector. In Kwale, less than five of the main beach hotels are operating.

South Coast Association of Local Tour Operators Ms Sally Mathenge said the sector is yet to pick up in the south coast circuit. She cited Baobab, Diana Sea Resort, Neptune, and Southern Palm among those operating with visitors.

"It is a strange festive season because most hotels are not operating and those operating have very few visitors. We are depending on upcountry visitors who come on weekends," she said.

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