19-06-2020 by Freddie del Curatolo
Reopening hotels and restaurants now is useless, this is the opinion of most hospitality operators in Kenya.
This is revealed by a survey conducted by the Central Bank of Kenya, as well as being the widespread opinion of tourism associations.
The main reasons, according to hoteliers, are to be found not only in the growing climate of insecurity regarding the spread of the virus in the country, but also in the extent of the restrictions and containment measures of Covid-19 and the indications that will complete the so-called protocol for businesses and all activities that operate to the public.
In the CBK survey, respondents pointed out that reopening, given the curfew and lockdowns in Nairobi and Mombasa, and with the airports closed, would not be convenient at all.
In an attempt to gauge optimism in the country's economic outlook in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, the survey asked respondents in the hotel industry to indicate any monthly hotel term reservations received so far for the period May to August this year.
The results, reported by national newspaper The Standard, showed that most hotels had all reservations cancelled or suspended indefinitely due to the presence of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Among the hotels that responded, 75 percent had also prepared to reopen in accordance with the Government's requirements for staff and customer safety. 20 percent are in fact open, but with zero term reservations and only 5 percent have any term reservations for the next two months. Respondents from the tourism industry as a whole reported a sharp reduction in the number of international tourist arrivals in the first quarter of this year and predicted that the trend will continue for the rest of 2020. In addition, respondents indicated that domestic tourism has stalled due to movement restrictions to limit the spread of the virus that further affects hoteliers.
The final blow, according to the hospitality industry, was the latest extension of the restrictions. For them, even a slow recovery and the abolition of curfews and lockdowns, in addition to a certain date planned for the reopening of international airports, could have reversed the route even partially.
Despite the "last minute" possibility of hosting domestic tourism in August and perhaps a reopening of international flights at the end of July, most hoteliers and restaurateurs do not believe that this could serve to restore a budget that for now is expected to be a disastrous loss. It is better to stay closed and wait for better times and certainty.
As a result, the large hotels have temporarily closed their operations with a few operators who have opted to reduce the number of employees or to apply measures such as reducing staff salaries.
The other unknown is represented by the use that the Ministry of Tourism will make of the 6 billion shillings that the Treasury has allocated to the sector, with the aim of containing the inconvenience and preparing for the relaunch.
There is little to think about marketing at the moment. The funds should be used to allow the activities to amortize expenses and not have to lay off and drastically reduce their services with a view to reopening.
"To restart the sector, we are allocating funds for soft loans to hotels and related facilities through the Tourism Finance Corporation - recently explained Treasury Minister Ukur Yattani - other allocations will be used to support the renewal of facilities and adaptation to new standards.
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