High-end hotels have taken steps towards reopening even as they start marketing takeaway offers from their restaurants to protect their incomes with the hospitality sector seeking to survive restrictions put in place to slow down the spread of coronavirus disease.
Top hotels like Villa Rosa Kempinski, Ole Sereni, Hemingways Watamu, Radisson Blu Arboretum and Trademark Hotel have reopened their restaurants for take away and dine-in options as well as home and office deliveries.
Others have also rearranged their sitting arrangements to take into account social distancing as they seek to comply with Ministry of Health rules. “Our five star luxury dining can taste just as good, served in the comfort of your home or office,” the Villa Rosa Kempinski said on its social media pages and in personalised messages to customers.
“All our meals are prepared observing the highest health, hygiene and safety standards in compliance with Kempinski White Glove Service.”
Ole Sereni Hotel has also added laundry services to its drive-through meals service as it seeks to earn additional income.
Trademark and Ole Sereni have also included accommodation bookings as the players hope that the industry will recover or receive a bailout from the government. This comes against the background of countries like Spain declaring that they are considering reopening for tourism. China, too, is in talks with Germany to allow business executives to travel to the Asian country to restart business and investments.
Sources on Tuesday said that in the event that President Uhuru Kenyatta eases the restrictions on Saturday, the Kenya Airports Authority will resume operations by Monday next week, meaning that airlines like Kenya Airways can start flights, starting with the re-establishment of domestic routes. This will mean that business travel can reopen, which will in turn mean that executives can patronise the high-end hotels as the economy re-opens.
“We have to take a long-term view,” Roberto Simone, the managing director of the Villa Rosa Kempinski, Nairobi, told the Business Daily in an exclusive interview. “Unless we open, we will die of closure.” He said even as it was important for players in the hospitality industry to protect their cash reserves and cash flow, they should remain open to send a signal that the country is ready for business travellers and resumption of tourism.
Besides the high-end hotels, their lower tier counterparts like Pride Inn and restaurant chains such as Java, Artcaffe, KFC and Dominoes, have also resumed operations, sustaining their businesses by delivering food to customers or allowing them to order on take-away basis.
Delivery services such as Glovo and Uber have reported an increase in demand for food delivery services from across the hospitality industry as families opt to dine indoors rather than visit hotels and restaurants for their meals. Hotels were required to close their doors to customers at the end of March by government directives banning large social gatherings and additional Ministry of Health measures to ensure social distancing as the government raced to slow down the spread of the Covid-19 disease. This, coupled with restrictions on international flights into Kenya hit the country’s tourism industry, which brought in Sh163.56 billion last year.
The extended shutdown of the hotels has resulted in the indefinite closure of some establishments, including Fairmont Nairobi and Mara as others grapple with alternative revenue models. Many have also either laid off staff, reduced their pay or sent them on unpaid leave to protect their cash reserves since they are hardly generating new revenues.
The properties still in operation have narrowed down to skeleton staff and cut off most amenities, including spas and gyms and other entertainment and recreation options.
Bed occupancy is almost non-existent, with few of the hotels having received a lifeline when they were operating as government-approved quarantine centres last month.
At the end of April, Health Secretary Mutahi Kagwe allowed the reopening of restaurants between 5am and 4pm as long as the staff are tested for the virus and social distancing measures observed.
The hotel sector in the country had seen increased activity with numerous global hotel brands opening establishments over the past year, leading to increased competition in the sector.