Hotel bookings pickup as festive season kicks in

Most hotels have reduced sitting capacity in restaurants and other common areas.

In Summary

•While hotels can accommodate guests to to full capacity, in rooms, facilities such as restaurants, bars, pools and other amenities will be limited to a few guests at a time.

•Most hotels at the coast are expecting over 70 per cent occupancy with some likely to be fully booked during the Christmas weekend.

Domestic tourists from Nairobi during vacation at Jacaranda beach resort in Watamu./FILE
Domestic tourists from Nairobi during vacation at Jacaranda beach resort in Watamu./FILE

Hotels have reported improved business ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays, with some facilities likely to be overwhelmed by numbers.

They are now grappling with how to enforce the Covid-19 protocols that demand social distancing  to mitigate the spread of the virus.

While hotel rooms can accommodate guests to full capacity, common areas such as restaurants, bars, pools and other amenities will be limited to a few guests at a time, a move that comes with extra labour and space.

A number of hotels at the Coast and parks are currently at between 40-50 per cent with last minute bookings for next week expected to push the numbers to above 80 per cent.

Some facilities have indicated they will be full during the Christmas weekend and New Year.

Serena's Maasai Mara facility has recorded full booking between December 24–26, with continued inquiries for Christmas and the New Year.

“We are full during Christmas,”Mara Serena Safari Lodge told the Star.

At Baobab Beach Resort, Diani, numbers are expected to rise next week mainly from the domestic guests from Nairobi and Mombasa, as locals secure last minute bookings.

The facility has been operating at 40 per cent on average from December, with al guest drawn from domestic travellers.

“We might be surprised as domestic travellers come down last minute as they always do,” the resort's general manager Sylvester Mbandi told the Star.

In the Tsavo-Amboseli National Parks circuit, facilities have reported goods business with numbers expected to rise next week on last minute bookings, boosted by resumption of the inter-county SGR operations that stops at major towns between Nairobi and Mombasa.

“Almost everybody is doing well. Voi Wildlife is doing well until now, Serena is getting quite a number of bookings, but again we are limited to locals which is the new normal,” the region's Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers (KAHC) chairman Willy Mwadilo told the Star yesterday.

Mwadilo who is also the general manager Salt Lick Safari Lodge and Taita Hills Safari Resort and Spa reported occupancy of up to 60 per cent at the two facilities for next week, with the numbers expected to go up next week.

On Jamhuri Day, the management had to serve lunch and dinner in intervals due to reduced sitting capacity occasioned by social distancing rules.

“With Kenyans traditionally doing last minute bookings, I am sure we will be full next week. This can be overwhelming in giving services at public areas but we are prepared,” Mwadilo said, noting the management will have to increase set ups at different locations within the hotels to reduce crowding in the restaurants.

Sun Africa Hotels which has facilities at the Coast, Naivasha and the Mara is looking at above 70 per cent to 90 per cent occupancy at its facilities which inlcude Nyali Sun Africa Beach Hotels (Mombasa) and Keekorok Lodge (Masaai Mara).

Kenya Tourism Federation chair Mohammed Hersi termed this year “a cautious festive period”, where hotels are expected to protect both their staff and guests.

“To comply with the protocols, we are not planning to sale 100 per cent , we want to be responsible and self regulated,” Hersi said, “We are not going to be merry making because Covid doesn't go on leave, it is still there.”

“While we want people to come to our hotels, we are exercising a lot of caution to protect our staff and to protect our guests,” he said.

The government is counting on the domestic market to help revive the industry which has taken a hit this year from Covid-19 effects.

This has seen 10-months to October international arrivals dip 72 per cent to 470,971, compared to 1,718,550 same period last year.