Hotel bookings sluggish as festive season beckons

Most hotels are currently at between 30–40 per cent on domestic tourists.

In Summary

•A number of facilities have however reported good business in the Christmas-New Year period.

•The government has since May this year counted on domestic tourism to help in the industry's post Covid-19 recovery.

A few guests seen at the Baobab's Maridadi resort swimming pool in Diani /COURTESY
A few guests seen at the Baobab's Maridadi resort swimming pool in Diani /COURTESY

Hotels at the coast and parks are optimistic of better bed occupancy for the December and New Year holidays despite low numbers weeks into the festive season.

Bookings in most hotels currently stands at between 3040 per cent with domestic tourists forming the bulk in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic that has dealt a blow to international travel.

Facilities in the Tsavo East and West and the Amboseli National Parks are currently operating at slightly above 30 per cent average occupancy , the region's Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers(KAHC) chairman Willy Mwadilo told the Star yesterday.


Mwadilo who is the general manager Salt Lick Safari Lodge and Taita Hills Safari Resort and Spa reported occupancy of up to 40 per cent at the two facilities.

“Business is a bit slow. We have a few people moving between Tsavo East and West mainly from Nairobi and Mombasa,” Mwadilo said.

He is however expecting the numbers to rise above 70 per cent as the festive season sets in, mainly in the second week of December.

“Kenyans are last minute people so it is still early to tell but we expect good business during Christmas and New Year,” said Mwadilo.

At the Maasai Mara, Serena Hotels has recorded full booking between December 2426, with continued inquiries for Christmas and the New Year.

“We have room up to December 23 and there after from December 26 onwards,” Mara Serena Safari Lodge responded to an inquiry by the Star.

Hotels and resorts at the coast are also currently struggling with low numbers after good business in September and October, with hopes of a boom from mid-next month.


Baobab Beach Resort, Diani, had reported average occupancy rate of 80 per cent for October.

The brand which runs The Baobab, The Maridadi, and Kole Kole, is currently operating at less than 40 per cent into December, all domestic travellers.

The months of September and October were great for Diani, November numbers are slowly building up after the anticipated lock-down was shelved. We look forward to a promising December and the festive period,” the resort's general manager Sylvester Mbandi told the Star.

We are hopeful travellers will embrace and book their festive holidays,” he added.

Sun Africa Hotels which has facilities at the Coast, Naivasha and the Mara is anticipating 60-73 per cent occupancy during the festive season across its facilities, which inlcudes Nyali Sun Africa Beach Hotels (Mombasa) and Keekorok Lodge (Masaai Mara).

"With the pandemic situation adversely affecting the tourism industry, we are fortunate to have good numbers during these times and as the world alters to new travel norms and outlooks, we’re enhancing the experience for visitors,"  said Rahul Sood,Group Managing Director-Middle East and Africa.

The Covid-19 pandemic has however made it difficult to project overall trends in the tourism industry, according to KAHC executive officer Sam Ikwaye,  as he predicts mixed performance this year.

Covid and related restrictions will affect bookings,” Ikwaye said, “We can't quantify December bookings now unlike other months under normal situations when we would tell December outlook in August. With Covid, things are totally unpredictable.”

The government has since May this year counted on domestic tourism to help in the industry's post Covid-19 recovery, with President Uhuru Kenyatta urging Kenyans to commit to take their holidays locally for the next one year.

We must visit our hotels and parks, and every corner of our country,” the President said in May.

Last year, domestic toursists accounted for 4.9 million (4,955,800) bed nights which was an increase from 4.4 million (4,489,000) in 2018, a year that the country recorded the highest number of international tourist, at 2,048,834.

Despite resumption of international flights on August 1, after several months of closure to contain the spread of Covid-19, international arrivals have remained low.

A paltry 40,067 international visitors have come into the country between August and SeptemberTourism Research Institute data.

Tourism CS Najib Balala has projecting a 90 per cent drop on international arrivals this year, with earnings expected to fall by 80 per cent.

This means the country will miss out on about 1.8 million (1,843,949) international arrivals this year as a result of Covid-19, with Sh130.9 billion at stake, based on last years' performance.