CUSHION SECTOR

Hoteliers call for tax relief to cope with Covid effects

Association says restrictions have led to massive losses

In Summary
  • Under the umbrella of Lake Victoria Tourism Association, the operators said the restrictions imposed by the government to contain spread of Covid-19 have led to massive losses making it untenable to continue paying the taxes.
  • Addressing journalists at a Kisumu hotel the chairman of the association Robinson Anyal said operations had been scaled down by almost seventy percent. 
Kisumu Hotel and deserted streets
INDUSTRY SHOCK: Kisumu Hotel and deserted streets
Image: MARTIN OMBIMA

Hoteliers  from the 14 counties within the lake region want the government to suspend taxes and others levies to help them cope with the effects of  Covid-19 pandemic. 

 Under the umbrella of Lake Victoria Tourism Association, the operators said the restrictions imposed by the government to contain spread of Covid-19 has led to massive losses making it untenable to continue paying the taxes.

Addressing journalists at a Kisumu hotel, the chairman of the association Robinson Anyal said operations had been scaled down by almost 70 per cent. 

He said most staff had been sent on unpaid leave.

"The movement restrictions recently announced by the President has had an immense impact on the tourism and hospitality sector in the region," he said.

Coming at a time when the industry has been working hard to regain its lost glory with most businesses experiencing high numbers of cancellations from both business and leisure travellers.

Anyal noted that bookings for the just ended Easter holiday were cancelled following the lockdown of the five counties." 85 per cent of the bookings were cancelled at the eleventh hour. This hurt the sector even harder," he said.

"The businesses have been  disrupted and it is no longer sustainable. We are remaining afloat just because we don't want close down completely," he said

According to the association, most hotels in the region depend on Nairobi tourism business  and conferences. The restrictions has seen the number of conferences reduce.

LVTA chief executive officer Charles Kataro  appealed to the government to come to the rescue of the players in the sector.

"There is need to ensure that the stimulus package rolled out to cushion the  sector from the impact of Covid-19 benefits a bigger number," he said.

The  taxes they want suspended include the 2 per cent catering levy which is  paid to tourism fund, music copy right levy, tourism license, single business permit and  liquor license among others.

The association is working in collaboration with other government agencies to ensure staff in the industry  are vaccinated.

The sector is also constantly training its staff on how to handle guests during the pandemic.

LVTA director Vivian Kobe said the hospitality sector in  the region has also ensured adequate measures are taken for both business and leisure travellers.

She said precautions are in place including regular training and testing of staff.

"We want to assure our customers that the Kenya’s Tourism and Hospitality industry continues to adhere strictly to all Covid-19 protocols. We are holding the “Tourism Safety Seal” by the World Tourism Council which considers Kenya a “Safe Travel Destination," she said.

The association urged  their members and stakeholders to look at the brighter side and leverage on the opportunity to lure domestic travellers to the hidden gems within the 42 counties not affected by the lockdown.

The Western Kenya Tourism Circuit spanning the 14 counties within the Lake Region Economic bloc,  also known as Kenya's best kept secret offers domestic travellers various opportunities to discover, explore and experience the hidden gems .

Visitors can engage in excursions in Lake Victoria, visit  Kakamega Forest, Agri-tourism in Bomet and Kericho, the caves and waterfalls in Mt  Elgon.

They can also take part in game activities in Ruma National Park or the amazing islands in  Homa Bay county.

-Edited by Sarah Kanyara