COVID-19 DISRUPTION

Painful start as Kisii hotels stagger back to business

Many restaurants have remained deserted, with only a handful of diners patronising.

In Summary

• Haron Kamau, the proprietor of the luxury Kamel Hotel at Kiogoro, tells the Star they are clutching on hope for the return of clients.

• Only a pocket of swimming lovers have begun to troop back, Kamau says.

Kamel Park Hotel in Kisii county.
SLOW BUSINESS: Kamel Park Hotel in Kisii county.
Image: COURTESY

Business in the hotel sector in Kisii is yet to pick up despite the reopening of the economy. 

Many hotels and restaurants have remained deserted, with only a handful of diners patronising the establishments.

Haron Kamau, the proprietor of the luxury Kamel Park Hotel at Kiogoro, told the Star they are currently clutching on hope for the return of clients.

Only a pocket of swimming lovers have begun to trickle back, Kamau said. 

Kamau described the slow start as painful but was optimistic things will change sooner.

The hotel has tested its more than 70 workers and set seating plans to ensure social distancing for patrons — part of Covid-19 containment protocols. 

There were only four clients at the hotel complex's vast swimming pool when the Star visited. 

“I think many of our usual customers are yet to get information that we are back in full swing and can return to enjoy their favourite food or drink here," Kamau  said.

The hotelier said the reopening of the economy was good for the industry's workforce, many of them who were hurting at home due to layoffs. 

 

Some restaurants in downtown Kisii still operate below capacity.

At Keroka's Hilltop, a premier hotel in Masaba South, manager Richard Arasa said they are operating at half capacity.

The facility has more than 100 rooms for guests to lodge and two restaurants. Business has been sluggish throughout, Arasa said. 

"Hotels like these also tap customers from as far as in Nairobi, Rift Valley, Nyamira and Migori and Covid-19 effects touched everywhere," Arasa said.

The manager said the hotel industry has lost millions in the face of the pandemic.

"It is not easy to quantify but I think the market has lost more than Sh300m since this novel disease struck the country, " he told the Star.

However, Arasa feels counties are not doing enough to market tourism in the region.

"Setting up luxury hotels should not be seen as ego adventures of the proprietors.  These are investments that have employed our sons and daughters and all of us including our counties have the collective responsibility to market them so that we can tap and benefit from tourism," Arasa said.

Kisii and Nyamira counties have what he described as rolling picturesque sites that should be used to market the region as a tourist circuit.

He cited Manga escarpment as one of the sites that have not been marketed even to the locals.

At Ufanisi in downtown, proprietor Patrick Lumumba said they have begun to pick up business after a slow start.

"It will definitely take time for us to break even. Covid is likely to be a stubborn boil on the tourism industry for months or even years to come. It is all a struggle to survive," Lumumba said. 

He, however, said he continues to be optimistic even in the face of the daunting prospects ahead.

"In all situations, we must remain optimistic. We have to do delicate balancing, meet all the guidelines and ensure no client contracts the disease as he eats at our resort," he said. 

Kisii Governor James Ongwae last week urged all players in the hotel industry to ensure they complied with guidelines to safeguard their customers from the coronavirus.

"Let them ensure they have tested their staff and set the seating parameters for their clients," Ongwae said.

The county has registered six Covid-19 patients since the outbreak was reported.

Five have been discharged and the one on treatment is asymptomatic, health officials told the Star.

The governor said they have increased bed capacity at Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital as a safety valve just in case the infection skyrocket. 

(edited by o. owino)