08-04-2020 by Freddie del Curatolo
In such a problematic period, when the priorities are public health and food safety in a country made up for the most part of people struggling to survive on a daily basis, it is impossible to avoid thinking about the future of tourism, which is Kenya's third largest earner and, at the same time, brings salaries to tens of thousands of citizens and an ancillary industry that, especially in the Rift Valley of Parks and Reserves and on the coast, represents a large part of the population.
A future that at the moment seems much more than uncertain.
As for the country in general, which depends a lot on safari tourism and the presence of wealthy foreigners who organize holidays focused on natural paradises and wildlife, the situation in the United States, the first country to enter Kenya, is very worrying. Just as one wonders how much one will be able to count on the recovery of the global situation on European clients who are experiencing an economic crisis that will certainly show its thorns in a few months.
According to Roberto Marini, entrepreneur and marketing expert who has been working with national tourism associations and the Ministry to promote Kenya in new directions, from those of other African countries to other emerging nations, without forgetting Europe, the recovery is not near and everything will depend on how Kenya passes the contagious storm.
"It will be difficult to see a new dawn of tourism in Kenya already in August - is the thought of Marini - but surely if this will be possible, it will concern above all the upper middle classes of customers, those accustomed to excursions and luxury holidays, in lodges and camps in the savannah that have prices not accessible to all. Those who have economic possibilities, will be tested by this long period of stress and immobility and Kenya could be the ideal destination, especially as the parks and reserves are breathing again and will be able to offer wonderful landscapes and situations. Of course, it is to be hoped that Kenya will not have to experience a long wave of contagion, but we are confident both for the prompt and careful action of the Government and for the climate and the characteristics of the equatorial Pasi, where the virus may not take root in a violent way".
According to the owner of the Ocean Beach Resort in Malindi, it is coastal and mass tourism that will suffer most from the post-Coronavirus.
"Italy and our fellow countrymen - says Marini - will certainly feel the economic impasse of these months and the first voice they will cut will be that of the holidays. It's hard in my opinion to see Italian tourists from resorts here before December".
A little more optimistic is Roberto Lenzi, owner of the Crystal Bay Resort in Watamu, which has been operating for some time with the Tour Operator "Veratour" and the Seven Island Resort, which this year has worked very well, until the spread of the pandemic, with Alpitour.
"We hope that already in August we can resume dreaming of Kenya, which this year has been one of the most popular destinations for European tourists and among the most proposed by Italian agencies - says Lenzi - what is certain is that our tour operators will have to think first to restart business in Italy and this, from the statements of the main commercial players, seems to be their intention. But on the other hand, they won't miss the opportunity to propose again a destination like the Kenyan coast, which was very successful in the season just ended, in order to make the economy turn in more directions. It won't be easy but any program will have to find us ready".
Lenzi is convinced that Italy will reopen its doors at the end of May and will give citizens the chance to plan their holidays too, even if they are in economic straits.
"Italians will not betray their vocation to live and enjoy their holidays - explains the Roman businessman - they will also have to be convinced with personalized offers and here the Tour Operators know that they will have to work at minimum income to get the car running again. We already have reservations for November and January 2021 and we hope to honour them. In August I see a slow recovery of repeaters and it will be important to show the world that Kenya is getting back on track. The important thing, of course, is that the virus does not spread here as it did and is still spreading in the West".
Pasquale Tiritò, the owner of Jacaranda and Jumbo Resort and dean of Kenya travel, also hopes that Kenya will be able to quickly put an end to the emergency, but is less confident about the resumption of tourism in Kenya.
"I don't see great prospects in August - explains Tiritò - that's why I'm among the few who decided not to give vaucher to be reused but to fully refund those who had already booked for next August, as we did for those who had to come on holiday at the end of March or April and for those who had to interrupt it, and for travel agencies and Tour Operators who had paid in advance. In addition to the Jacaranda and Jumbo that we manage directly, we own Eden Watamu Village and Doa-Doa Camp. We have built and donated a school, the Jacaranda Primary, built churches and we have intervened, and we do so today, on various projects for the benefit of local communities. As our activities have grown, we have always looked at what was going on "outside", because we believe in an open and interdependent world. We respond to the laws of Kenya, but we compare ourselves with the rest of the world. We could have easily imposed a freeze on the amounts and instead we have done quite the opposite. We did it simply because we thought it was right. And in other times of crisis, too, we have made the same choice."
For Tiritò, the Italian Tour Operators will think above all about restarting tourism in their own country, also strong in the incentives they hope to obtain from the Government, i.e. redundancy funds for their employees and tax shock absorbers.
"We are the ones here in Kenya who do not have any kind of protection and that is why I will talk to the Minister of Tourism Najib Balala - adds Tiritò - we will have to adapt to the post-emergency and adapt the facilities to make tourists who want to come here feel safer, as well as airlines and safari agencies. We don't know when everything will start again, probably for the winter season, but until the vaccine for Covid-19 arrives, people will travel to the places that will make them feel more protected, it is inevitable".
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