Kenya: Over 4, 000 Workers Face the Axe as Coast Hotels Close

A luxurious hotel within Lamu’s Shella Island (file photo).

More than 4, 000 employees in the hospitality industry will be declared redundant as Coast hotels plan to close for at least three months.

The tourism sector is facing a turbulent times due to the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, which has seen most of the hotels lose business during the April Easter holiday season, with worst expected.

Last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta tightened measures to cub the spread of the disease after spike that threatened a third wave.

The cessation of movement in and out of Nairobi, and other four neighbouring counties, negatively impacted the tourism business at the Coast. Many holidaymakers at the Coast come from Nairobi, including Kajiado, Nakuru, Kiambu, Machakos, which are under lock down.

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast branch executive officer Sam Ikwaye said that the industry is in its death bed.

"We are shutting down hotels. Normally we do temporarily close the facilities during this low season for renovations, where people take paid leave, but this this time round, sadly this wont be teh case," Mr Ikwaye said.

He noted that the whole of last year, most hotels exhausted all the paid leaves and this time round, they will be forced to send their staff on unpaid leave.

Ikwaye said hotels will be shutdown for at least three months.

"Mombasa Diani, Watamu, Malindi will be adversely affected. Mombasa usually remained open but this is not the case this time," Ikwaye said, adding that conference services, for which most guests have been from Nairobi, cannot sustain the tourism industry.

During he Easter festivities last week, soem facilities at the Coast, with 300-bed capacity recorded up to 10 guests, a lownumber that makes no business sense.

Despite the low uptake of Covid-19 vaccine, the tourism players are now asking the the government to prioritize the sector, especially those serving in the hotels.

"Once the sector players are vaccinated, it may be a tool to market these tourism destination," he said.

Kenya Tourism Federation chairperson Mohamed Hersi said the tourism industry, in its current state is as good as dead.

"We are taking a break and doing repairs, hoping that after all this is done, we will be ready to start from scratch," Mr Hersi said.

Some hotels have closed shop, Hersi said, because they cannot sustain their businesses.

Those that have remained open will eventually close, he said,

Nairobi has been Coast's biggest source of domestic market. But with the Covid-19 lockdown, the movement has ceased.

Mr Hersi, however, said there must be a balance between the economy and health.

Despite many facilities feeling the heat, Pride Inn Group Managing Director Hasnain Noorani said they will not shut down any of its branches.

"We are hoping that the President will soon open up counties on lockdown," he said.

Mr Noorani said they have downscaled the staff, given some unpaid leaves, because of low business.

"Our request to the President is he allow people to travel on condition that they take the Covid rapid test, and produce negative tests, just as we are doing for the international flights," he said "There is no reason for the government to block guests from completing their tourism circuit."

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