DON'T CLOSE DOWN

There's hope for hotels in 2021

Domestic travelers accounted for 90 per cent of business in the last quarter of 2020

In Summary

• Travellers Beach Hotel general manager Hillary Siele said 2020 was a tough year when lessons were learnt the hard way.

• Partners like the SGR and local airlines have been cushioning clients and giving them special rates that encouraged them.

Staff ad guests at Travelers Beach Hotel cut a cake to usher in 2021 on December 31, 2020.
BYE 2020: Staff ad guests at Travelers Beach Hotel cut a cake to usher in 2021 on December 31, 2020.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

Hoteliers are now leaning towards domestic tourists to help them survive as the uncertainty over the end of the pandemic hits home.

However, with the Covid-19 vaccine soon to be distributed, hoteliers are optimistic about the industry will bounce back.

Travellers Beach Hotel general manager Hillary Siele said 2020 was a tough year when lessons were learnt the hard way.

He has a message for fellow hoteliers and other industry stakeholders – do not close down.

Some hotels were closed for so long and some have not been able to open even after the restrictions placed by the government to curb the spread of the Covid-19 were reduced.

“We are in our recovery stage,” Siele told the Star.

He said the Christmas and the New Year's festivities filled most hoteliers with hope as they saw enthusiasm among Kenyans that they had never seen before.

“Kenyans are an optimistic lot and their optimism during the festivities gave us strength and filled us with hope,” Siele said

The GM said they were able to make sales and the numbers encouraged them to put more efforts into products for domestic tourists.

He called on the government to also consider hoteliers among the first people to be vaccinated once the vaccines arrive in the country.

Health workers and teachers will be among the first to be vaccinated once the vaccines arrive in the country.

Kenya, according to Health CS Mutahi Kagwe, will receive the first batch of Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca I the second week of February.

Travelers Beach Hotel general manager Hillary Siele
LOOKING UP: Travelers Beach Hotel general manager Hillary Siele
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

The government has ordered 24 million doses.

“Only with the vaccine are we going to be sure what will happen later this year. But we are very hopeful that it will be much better than 2020,” Siele said.

The government has released a Sh6 billion stimulus package to bail out the tourism industry and some Sh2 billion will be used to support renovation and the restructuring of business operations by stakeholders in the industry.

This will be in the form of soft loans to be administered by the Tourism Finance Corporation (TFC) to the establishments.

Siele said the stimulus package will go a long way to jump-start organisations including repairs and maintenance of facilities, cushioning staff members and suppliers.

“It is a long process getting the stimulus package but at least there is some hope. We are in the final stages,” he said.

The hotels that qualify for the package were to be contacted within the first week of January.

“We hope as travellers we will be on the list because we really stood on our feet during the hard times. We stood with our staff members and with our government and I think we also deserve it,” Siele said.

Conferences, he said, will be the main business in Mombasa.

However, he said, they are keen to take advantage of the few international charters that have opened up to tailor-make their products to suit that segment.

“That is giving us hope. Once the overseas market opens up fully, we hope by March we shall be back on our feet,” Siele said.

He called on all tourism stakeholders, especially the hoteliers, to be strong and not close down.

“They should value the local market. The locals are a great investment in tourism. We have seen for ourselves. During the festive season, 90 per cent of the business was local travellers,” the hotelier said.

Partners like the Standard Gauge Railways and the local airlines, he said, have been of great value, cushioning clients and giving them special rates that encouraged them.

“There is no need of giving up. There is light at the end of the tunnel,” the Travellers GM said.

Julius Muli, a local frequent traveller, said Kenyans need to promote their own but added that they can only do that if industry players also recognise them.

“For a long time, the players in the industry never recognised the local tourists. They only valued international ones. The pandemic has taught us a lesson that should be embraced,” Muli said.

He said industry players must now value local tourists more to encourage them to spend more.

“If we had more packages tailored towards a local family, then that local family will feel valued and be encouraged to spend more,” said Muli, a Nairobi resident who holidayed in Mombasa with his family.

Valentine’s Day and Easter holidays are coming up and this should be a start for tourism stakeholders to show Kenyans that they value them.

“So long as us we follow the protocols provided by the Health ministry, we do not have to fear. Let us travel across the country and visit these attraction sites,” Muli said.