TAKEAWAY UNPROFITABLE

20,000 workers losing jobs in North Rift as big hotels close over virus fears

Worst hit are upscale hotels favoured by foreigners believed to spread virus

In Summary

• Up-scale hotels frequented by foreigners are the worst hit as they had to shut down all operations amid fears overseas visitors spread coronavirus.

• Towns remain largely deserted most of the time; curfew observed. 

A deserted street in Eldoret town with most businesses shut down.
DESERTED: A deserted street in Eldoret town with most businesses shut down.
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI

More than 20,000 hotel workers in Eldoret, Kitale, Iten, Kapsabet and other parts of the North Rift expect to lose their jobs as hotels close over coronavirus fears.

Despite the government advising hotels to provide takeaway services only, most major hotels decided on a total shutdown, sending all workers home.

Reopening is uncertain.

We usually host many foreigners but with fears of the coronavirus, no one was willing to buy takeaway food. They think we are high-risk are.
Eldoret hotel director

The high-class hotels usually frequented by foreigners are the worst hit as they shut down all operations because foreign visitors are feared to be the main cause of the virus.

Towns remain largely deserted; the 7pm to 5am curfew is widely observed.

“We usually host many foreigners but with fears of the coronavirus, no one was willing to buy takeaway food. They think we are high-risk areas for possible infection,” a director of a top hotel in Eldoret said.

Alex Muthee, who is also a hotel owner in Eldoret, said he was still trying takeaway services but the spread of the coronavirus had paralysed the hotel industry.

“A majority of people are used to coming in sitting, eating and leaving afterwards. Very few hotels were doing takeaway and it will not be possible to carry out profitable takeaway," Muthee said.

In Kitale and Kapsabet, a few hotels are continuing takeaway services but can only sell light foods such as chips. They don't stock perishable items such as meat and chicken that are unlikely to sell because of uncertainty over their handling.

Hotelier James Nagabwa says at his restaurant he used to slaughter and sell as many as two goats daily but not anymore. “No one is buying meals from hotels and long-term losses will be immense," he said.

 

Hoteliers and other traders who rent premises fear they may be forced to shut down if the situation doesn't return to normal soon.

Paul Kibii, who is an official of the Kenya Union of Domestic and Hotel Allied Workers (Kudheiha), says many hotels were performing poorly even before the coronavirus outbreak. He said employers may sack works even if the health situation normalises.

“We pray the situation will normalise but it’s obvious many hotel workers will not get their jobs back," Kibii said.

(Edited by V. Graham)