TOURISM

Hotels bet on last minute bookings for Easter break

Mombasa, Diani, Naivasha, Kisumu and Nanyuki expecting boom

In Summary

•With Kenyan's described as last minute travelers, most hotels are hopeful bookings will rise in the remaining two weeks to Easter festivities.

•A good number of hotels from the coast have pitched tent at the Sarit Centre Holiday Expo (Nairobi) to try and drive bookings.

Domestic tourists swimming at Best Western Plus Creekside Hotel in Mombasa with no foreign tourists around
Domestic tourists swimming at Best Western Plus Creekside Hotel in Mombasa with no foreign tourists around
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

Hoteliers are banking on last minute bookings from domestic travellers to drive up numbers over the Easter weekend.

The domestic market has remained a lifeline for the tourism sector which has been hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

With Kenyan's described as last minute travelers, especially during holiday periods, most hotels are hopeful bookings will rise in the remaining two weeks before the Easter festivities.

The Covid-19 vaccine roll-out is also giving hope to the sector which has largely depended on international arrivals, that account for more than 85 per cent of the tourism sector annual numbers.

Hotels and tourism outfits in Mombasa, Diani, Naivasha, Kisumu and Nanyuki regions are expected to record good business this Easter, according to KAHC chief executive Mike Macharia.

We are optimistic with Easter and domestic travel. While they are last minute, we are grateful. Charters from new markets like Romania and Poland is also a shot in the arm
Kenya Tourism Federation(KTF) chairman and Pollman's Group Operations Director, Mohammed Hersi

It is not business as usual. The industry is really struggling but we expect to see activities in these regions over Easter,” Macharia told the Star yesterday.

Average countrywide occupancy is at 25 per cent, he noted, with some regions expected to record high bookings starting next week.

“Nairobi is dead. Hotels are between zero to seven per cent on occupancy but this is because it is a business tourism destination and nothing much is happening,”said Macharia.

At the coast, a popular destination with local visitors, hotels have expressed optimism Kenyans will travel.

Hoteliers from the region have pitched tent at the Sarit Centre Holiday Expo (Nairobi) which kicks-off today, to try and drive bookings.

“Things are not looking good. We are expecting to sale at the expo and hoping last minute bookings will boost our numbers,” said Sylvester Mbandi, general manager, Baobab Beach Resort, Diani.

Currently, the resort which operates three facilities-Baobab, The Maridadi and Kole Kole, has an average occupancy of 40 per cent.

Salt Lick Safari Lodge and Taita Hills Safari in the Tsavo National Park are expecting an average 60-70 per cent occupancy over Easter, from last minute bookings and walk-ins.

“Most Kenyans are last minute people so we expect to be busy over Easter but after that, we again go into losses,” general manager, Willy Mwadilo, said.

The facilities have come up with hotel and Standard Gauge Railway packages, including transfers to and from the rail station, targeting potential domestic tourists from Nairobi and Mombasa.

It also continues to attract visitors from Eastern Europe, having recently hosted 40 tourists from Ukraine.

“Poland, Ukraine, Russia are still traveling but very cautious about Covid-19 protocols despite being vaccinated,” Mwadilo noted.

Tourism Chief Administrative Secretary, Joseph Boinnet, said the Covid-19 vaccine will help revive tourism by encouraging both international, regional and domestic travel. Hotel workers are among the priority group.

Kenya Tourism Federation(KTF) chairman and Pollman's Group Operations Director, Mohammed Hersi yesterday said: We are optimistic with Easter and domestic travel. While they are last minute, we are grateful. Charters from new markets like Romania and Poland is also a shot in the arm.”

PrideInn Group Managing Director Hasnain Noorani, restaurants and eating points are expected record high numbers, buoyed by the vaccination programme.

He expects an increase of between 15 to 20 per cent bookings and accommodation as the country heads to Easter holidays.

The vaccine is expected to be a significant boost for the tourism and hospitality industry, which has been badly affected by border closures, travel restrictions, curfew and social distancing measures related to Covid-19," he said.

Domestic tourism accounted for 4.9 million bed-nights in 2019, a year the tourism sector hit a record high of 2.048 million international arrivals.

When the pandemic hit the country in March last year, more than 400 high-end tourist facilities in Mombasa, Diani, Kilifi, Malindi, and Lamu closed down, rendering more than 10,000 employees jobless.

Similar facilities in Rift Valley, Central and Western regions were also closed, accoding to KAHC, directly affecting more than 50,000 people in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Interlinked players like suppliers, farmers, hotels, travel industry, clubs and eateries also suffered.

Meanwhile, Airbnbs, villas and home-stays continue to attract numbers during the pandemic, as a segment of the market try to avoid hotel facilities, which they perceive too public.