AILING INDUSTRY

Tourism sector pleads for review of Covid restrictions

In 2019, the sector employed an estimated 1,297,000 people and contributed approximately Sh296 billion to the exchequer.

In Summary

• The players want, among other things,  tourists already in the country facilitated and allowed to complete their safaris as planned.

• KTF chair Mohammed Hersi said there are several visitors already in the country with others arriving over the next few days  for confirmed safaris and tours.

Sai Rock Beach Hotel in Mombasa.
BUSINESS HURTING Sai Rock Beach Hotel in Mombasa.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

Tourism and hospitality industry players have come up with various proposals for the government in relation to the Covid-19 restrictions.

This follows a crisis meeting in Mombasa which came up with a seven-point agenda for consideration.

Through the Kenya Tourism Federation, they want among other things, the government to accord tourists already in the country special consideration and be facilitated and allowed to complete their safaris as planned.

KTF is the national apex body of the tourism private sector in Kenya, representing the seven key tourism trade associations.

In a letter to Interior CS Fred Matiang’i dated March 27, KTF chair Mohammed Hersi said the containment measures were announced with very little lead time yet there are several visitors already in the country with others arriving over the next few days or weeks for confirmed safaris and tours.

“Tourist transportation is by way of Tourist Service Vehicles (TSV) which are very distinct from the PSV used for matatu operations.

He said these can be clearly be monitored and allowed for use by accredited members of Kenya Association of Tour Operators.

They also want the government to allow international tourists who made forward bookings to tour the country both by road and flight.

They argued that international guests all have a  Covid-19 negative certificate, secured 96 hours prior to arrival.

“We also propose to use the health passport worldwide system which is an electronic portal for authenticating the Covid-19 status for the tourists during their stay in Kenya, for purposes of ensuring and maintaining test results integrity,” Hersi said.

He said the tourism, travel and hospitality industries worldwide are based on forward bookings business model.

In Kenya, industry players are holding over 70 per cent forward bookings that are scheduled for travel in April – August, 2020 from key international source markets.

KTF also wants the Government to allow the movement of tourists using commercial scheduled domestic air services connecting passengers to various tourist destinations.

They argued that although the government has allowed international flights to continue as normal and tourists should not cancel their plans to visit Kenya, it would be very difficult to complete safaris without domestic flights.

“This will safeguard the travel, tourism and hospitality establishment and safeguard the lives and livelihoods of the employees in the industry, while contributing to the tax contributions by the industry," said Hersi.

The federation also wants domestic tourists who provide negative Covid-19 tests results taken within 96 hours to freely access tourist destinations for holidays.

The domestic tourism market has provided a lifeline to most establishments during the slow return of international tourists.

Hersi also sought priority vaccination for tourism, travel and hospitality frontline workers.

“Many key source markets are already demanding that their guests should only be handled by vaccinated personnel and we are ready to step forward to take the vaccine to help our destination Magical Kenya not to be left behind,” said the KTF chair.

KTF wants pubs and restaurants allowed to continue offering limited in-services alongside take-away services within the stipulated protocols and physical distancing.

This he said would help traders dispose the stock currently held in several  establishments, and help reduce loses.

The tourism industry is a major contributor to Kenya’s economy accounting for 8.8 per cent of GDP.

In 2019, the sector employed an estimated 1,297,000 people and contributed approximately Sh296 billion to the exchequer.

KTF affiliate bodies include  Kenya Association of Tour Operators, Kenya Association of Air Operators, Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya, Kenya Association of Travel Agents, Kenya Coast Tourism Association, Ecotourism Kenya and Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers .

Tourists walk alongthe Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach outside Sai Rock Beach Hotel in December last year.
LOW NUMBERS Tourists walk alongthe Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach outside Sai Rock Beach Hotel in December last year.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO