31-03-2021 by redazione
International tourists who have already booked their holidays for Easter or April should be able to travel freely around Kenya and the vehicles that will transport them, from safari jeeps to normal cars with regular transfer and private tourist transport (TSV) licences, should also be exempted from inter-county restrictions and curfews.
These are the main demands of the tourism and hospitality industry operators who have handed over various proposals to the government in relation to the recent restrictions on the third wave of Covid-19 in the country.
There are seven points on the agenda presented in Mombasa by the Kenya Tourism Federation, a body that brings together the main trade associations: Kenya Association of Tour Operators, Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers, Kenya Association of Air Operators, Pubs Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya, Kenya Association of Travel Agents, Kenya Coast Tourism Association and Ecotourism Kenya.
In a letter delivered to Home Minister Fred Matiang'i, KTF President Mohammed Hersi recalled that the curbing measures were announced with very little time to spare, yet many visitors are already in Kenya and more will arrive in the coming days or weeks for safaris and holidays already booked.
"Tourist transport is by means of vehicles with special licences," wrote Hersi, "which are very different from the PSVs used for example by matatu. TSVs should be allowed to travel everywhere as well as being monitored.
One of the points is also about health safety for those arriving and those accompanying them.
"We also propose to use the World Health Passport system, which is an electronic portal to authenticate Covid-19 status for tourists during their stay in Kenya, in order to ensure and maintain the integrity of test results," Hersi said.
According to the KTF, essential domestic flights should also be ensured just to cater for the tourists who will be arriving. More than 70 per cent of the expected arrivals have not yet been cancelled and the hospitality sector would not want to turn them down, even though a large part of the Easter bookings come from local tourism, which has provided a lifeline to most establishments while waiting for the slow return of international tourists.
"This will enable the survival of the travel, tourism and hospitality sector and safeguard the lives and livelihoods of the industry's employees, while contributing to the tax contributions the sector pays."
Hersi also called for priority vaccination for frontline tourism workers.
"Many key markets are already calling for their guests to be greeted only by vaccinated staff," Hersi explained, "and we are ready to step up to take the vaccine to help our destination 'Magical Kenya' not be left behind."
The tourism industry until the onset of the pandemic, was a major contributor to Kenya's economy and accounted for 8.8% of GDP. In 2019, the sector employed about 1,297,000 people and contributed Kes. 296 billion to the exchequer.
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