OPTIMISTIC

Balala, tourism stakeholders upbeat as travel resumes

CS urges Kenyans to embrace domestic tourism

In Summary

•Among highlights to kickstart the industry is the current ongoing great wildebeest migration.

•The Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers says move to open up movement is a major boost as tourism and hospitality highly depends on travelling.

Wildebeest cross Mara River to return to Maasai Mara Game Reserve from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania./
Wildebeest cross Mara River to return to Maasai Mara Game Reserve from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania./
Image: FILE

Tourism stakeholders are upbeat that the lifting of cessation of movement into and out of the Nairobi and Mombasa will boost the industry's recovery. 

Tourism CS Najib Balala yesterday called on Kenyans to take advantage of packages being extended by hotels and parks to help the industry recover from the impact of Covid-19.

Kenya has been awarded the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Safe Travel Stamp after adopting the global health and hygiene protocols dubbed ‘Safe Travels'.

 

On Monday, President Uhuru Kenyatta lifted the ban on travel, allowing movement into and out of the country’s commercial hub of Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa, which is a key beach holiday destination.

“This is good news, resumption of international flights on August 1, as well as domestic flights July 15. In the next ten days, there will be a lot of preparations domestically as well as preparing for the international opening,” Balala said.

Among highlights, to kickstart the industry is the current ongoing great wildebeest migration, one of the most phenomenal natural spectacles in the world.

“We want to encourage Kenyans to start looking at the opportunity to go to Maasai Mara and watch the migration,” Balala said.

He said hotels and lodges are also putting in place measures to resume operations.

“The protocols are ready, now it's to implement, this will encourage people to start opening up and start polishing their products, ready to receive guests,” Balala said in an interview with the Star.

The Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers (KAHC) has also welcomed the move to open up movement, noting that tourism and hospitality highly depend on traveling.

 

“Easing on travel restrictions means movement of people thus we can start putting in place measures to reach out to the market place and reposition ourselves as a destination,” KAHC executive officer Sam Ikwaye said.

To support safari products, Balala last week reduced park entry fees for Kenyans and international visitors by 50 per cent.

It now costs as little as Sh150 to enter a park, which varies from game parks to marine parks across the country.

This is together with a 50 per cent reduction fee for filmmakers who are normally charged by KWS when they film documentaries in the parks.

The new rates effected on July 1, 2020 will remain in place until to June 30, 2021.

Hotels are also coming up with attractive packages to attract visitors, with the government keen to revive the sector which contributes up to 10 per cent of GDP.

Kenya has lost 50 per cent of total annual tourism earnings due to the coronavirus pandemic, Balala notes.

This translates to Sh81.8 billion based on last year's revenues where the sector generated Sh163.6 billion.

Since Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic in March, leading to the closure of air travel, Kenya’s tourism sector which heavily depends on international travel has suffered a great deal.

International arrivals totaled 2,048,833 in 2019 where US was the top market source for Kenya, with arrivals at 245,437.

Government data in collaboration with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance indicates 3.1 million jobs in travel and tourism have been affected in the wake of Covid-19.

This includes hotel employees, pubs and restaurants, tour operators, airlines, travel agents and their related suppliers and support services.

A National Tourism Crisis Steering Committee set up by Balala has however advised the country could get at least 860,000 international visitors in the medium-term if the economy opens up this month. 

The sector can potentially attract 615,000 tourists within six months if domestic, regional and global travel opens up in September, and 450,000 if normalcy resumes in December.

“Quite a number of hotels and lodges will be ready to open for business in the coming few days, they want the business, they have suffered the last three to four months,” Balala said yesterday.