Kenya’s travel and hospitality industry is slowly picking a month after resumption of international and domestic flights.
International airlines, among them Qatar Airways, KLM, Air France, British Airways, Emirates and Turkish Airlines have resumed flights to Nairobi, albeit with low frequencies as Covid-19 continues to limit global movement.
National carrier Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines are also connecting the country to different destinations, with Ethiopian boosting connectivity to Mombasa with direct international flights.
Yesterday, hotels at the Coast, Nairobi and lodges inside parks reported average occupancy of between 25-40 per cent, majority being domestic tourists.
The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has recorded a number of international visitors mainly business travellers, according to officials, and Kenyans living abroad taking a break from Europe, the US, UAE and other African countries.
“We are starting to see international arrivals though the numbers are still low,” a ministry official, told the Star yesterday saying Tourism CS Najib Balala is expected to give an update in the next three to five days.
The lifting of cessation of movement into and out of Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera Counties by President Uhuru Kenyatta in July, that opened resumption of domestic flights on July 15, and SGR passenger services has also boosted domestic tourism.
The growing hotel business is from nill bookings between March-June when most facilities were shut over Covid-19.
Baobab Beach Resort reported 40 per cent occupancy on weekdays and 60-70 per cent over the weekends.
Baobab which runs three luxurious properties – The Baobab, The Maridadi, and Kole Kole, has also noted international inquiries for November and December into next year.
“Things are beginning to look up for us,” general manager Sylvester Mbandi told the Star.
Most hotels in Diani have re-opened, among them Neptune, Pinewood, Nomads, Lantana Galu, Diani Sea Lodge, Diani Resort, Swahili Beach, Diani Reef and Leopard Beach Resort.
“We have started receiving guests but occupancy is still low. The market feedback especially from Nairobi is positive, people want to travel and support recovery of the industry which we appreciate,” Joan Ndungu, residences manager-Leopard Beach Resort said.
The facility is averaging 30 per cent on occupancy.
In North Coast, PrideInn group of hotels reported occupancy of 30–40 per cent at its Shanzu Beach Resort, Mombasa, and 25-30 per cent at its Nairobi Pride Inn Azure hotel located at Westlands.
“August has been slow but climbing progressively. International inquiries are coming but quarantine measures for different countries are limiting travel,” managing director Hasnain Noorani told the Star.
“In Nairobi, business is mainly driven by conferences which is yet to pick up,” he added, calling on the government to support its institutions to hold conferences at hotels which will help in recovery.
Parks in the Tsavo and Amboseli circuits are currently attracting domestic tourists from Nairobi and Mombasa, according to the region’s Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers (KAHC) chairman Willy Mwadilo.
Mwadilo who is also the general manager Salt Lick Safari Game Loddge and Taita Hills Safari Resort reported 30-40 per cent occupancy at his facilities.
He has called on Kenya Railways to allow SGR stops at Mtito Andei and Voi towns to support facilities in the parks.
“There is potential for business both for them and hotels in the Tsavo National Park,” Mwadilo said, noting the current express train is denying travellers an opportunity to visit the Tsavo.
KAHC national vice chairman Wasike Wasike said on average, most hotels are operating at a high of 30 per cent and the lowest are at between five and 10 per cent.
“There is some light at the end of the tunnel,” Wasike said in a telephone interview.
He said though the country and industry is open for business, the international market is yet to respond as expected.
International tour operators TUI and FTI Group have started planing for scheduled charter flights direct to Mombasa, said Wasike, with tourists from Germany expected in October-November at the beginning of winter.
Numbers are expected to remain low this year, with Tourism CS Najib Balala projecting international arrivals will fall by 90 per cent.
Based on last year’s 2, 048,833 total arrivals, the country is likely to miss out on about 1.8 million (1,843,949) international arrivals this year as a result of Covid-19, which has dampened the global travel and hospitality industry.
Earnings from the sector are expected to fall by 80 per cent, according to the CS.
This translates to Sh130.9 billion based on 2019 total industry revenues where the sector generated a total of Sh163.6 billion.
Between March and June, the country lost 50 per cent of total annual tourism earnings which is about Sh81.8 billion.
“We expected to earn almost Sh189 billion in 2020-21. Unfortunately from February till June, we lost Sh80 billion and now July and August we are still calculating, but definitely we have no international tourism,” Balala said at a recent event.
“We are concerned but it is beyond us. It (Covid-19) is an international pandemic,” Balala said.