Due to the onset of the low tourism season, occupancy rates in coastal hotels have reached a new low, putting thousands of jobs at risk.
Occupancy levels have dropped from an average of 90 percent last month to between 30 and 40 percent currently, signaling the end of the annual peak season.
As hotel owners try to avoid bankruptcy, many are sending some of their staff on vacation, putting others on a rotating work schedule, or even shutting down for renovations.
Kenya Coast Tourism Association chief executive officer Julius Owino said hotels are offering special packages for events such as Valentine’s Day to attract domestic tourists.
“The situation remains promising with Mice [meetings, incentives, exhibitions and conferences) being our lifeline during the low season. We’re happy the government is holding most of its meetings in our establishments,” he said in an interview.
Big hotels and resorts with facilities to host Mice events have also stepped up their marketing efforts to attract business travellers and employees of non-governmental organisations.
Kenya Union of Domestic Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers estimates that more than 2 million people were employed in the tourism and related sectors before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many tourism workers have lost their jobs or are taking pay cuts now. Mohammed Hersi, a hotelier and spokesman for the Association of Kenyan Tourism Employees, urged the World Health Organization to allow the World Tourism Organisation to take charge of global travel and tourism.
“Travel is not just for leisure it is also for business and it’s about time the world reopened. It is about time Covid-19 is removed from the pandemic category to an endemic for the industry to sustain,” Mr Hersi said on Facebook. “Spanish flu lasted two years killing close to 50 million people. We have also gone through 24 months and it is now clear that infections are dropping and fatalities have also dropped globally.”
Tourism players at the coast now are urging the government to deploy resources to support investors and workers in the industry.
“We need to do more to support our domestic market as this is likely to be the new trend in the wake of the pandemic,” said the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers chief executive Sam Ikwaye.