The recovery of the tourism sector in Kenya is driven by local visitors who now represent 80% of accommodation according to a survey by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK).
The CBK’s Monetary Policy Committee’s hotel survey for July 2021 indicates that the increase in domestic tourism activity also saw 96% of surveyed hotels resume operations, up from 94% in May and 81% in April, reflecting the continued recovery of the sector after the lifting of COVID -19 containment measures on May 2.
âIn particular, all the hotels surveyed in the rest of the country and 92% of the hotels in Nairobi are in operation. A few hotels in Nairobi that are still closed cited low activity rates as the main reason, as they are heavily dependent on foreign affairs. Nonetheless, interviewees did report concerns and risks associated with the resurgence and increase in COVID-19 infections in sector operations, âsaid CBK.
Domestic visitors also supported an upward movement in bed occupancy, which rose to an average of 30% in July, from an average of 19% in April.
âBed occupancy rates in hotels in Nairobi and Mombasa improved in July, while occupancy rates in the rest of the country declined. Hotel occupancy rates in Nairobi and Nakuru counties were boosted by the World Rally Championship in June. Nakuru County hotels reported being full at this event. “
The improved occupancy rate in Nairobi and Nakuru is also attributed to the increased activities of national governments and counties towards the end of fiscal year 2020/21 in June.
Accommodation and food services employment, which contracted 57.9% last year due to COVID-19, is also showing signs of recovery as employment levels Overall in the industry in July improved to 62% of pre-covid levels in February. 2020, compared to 57% and 49% in May and April respectively.
Before the pandemic, 82,900 people were employed in the sector.
Of the 86 hotels sampled, only 13% expect to return to pre-Covid normal.
COVID-19 tourism protocols
In an effort to further support efforts to revive the tourism sector, the Department of Tourism and Wildlife is set to engage county governments to ensure hotel workers are vaccinated.
Speaking at the launch of Magical Kenya Tourism and Travel Health and Safety’s revised protocols for the ‘new normal’, Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said this would ensure Kenya becomes a destination of choice as countries with higher vaccination rates will be at the forefront of receiving more visitors.
âHospitality workers can also be seen as front-line workers as they interact with visitors on a personal level. This is why we urge our hospitality players to get vaccinated whenever they have the chance. On our side, we will liaise with the tourism and health CECs at county level so that stakeholders can be vaccinated, âBalala added.
With hotels and restaurants barred from serving customers from 9 p.m. due to the national 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. curfew, Balala is warning the industry of laxity as the new wave of COVID-19 threatened gains made so far.
âWe are aware that most regulated establishments have measures in place to comply with COVID-19 protocols, and we commend them for that. However, there is a general laxity in total respect, especially when it comes to social distancing. There are also those who do not follow or try to circumvent established protocols. We want to tell them that their days are numbered and that the long arm of the law will catch up with them soon, ânoted Balala.
According to data from the Ministry of Tourism, 300,000 visitors have arrived in the past six months.