Hotels back to square one as holiday wrap cuts domestic tourism

Local hotels are effectively scheduled for a reset as the end of the Christmas festivities cut off domestic tourism.

Kenyans travelling domestically over the past month had become the lifeline for the presently volatile industry offsetting the great shrinkage in international travel following the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The influx of locals in hotels and other hospitality establishment is however set for a shake up as schools re-open and Kenyans go back to their pre-holiday routines.

“Domestic tourism is not a year-long affair. Many Kenyans only travel within the school holidays. Most hotels will be going back to empty rooms as schools re-open. This has been the sector’s main challenge with domestic tourism for years,” Kenya Tourism Federation Chairperson Mohammed Hersi told Citizen Digital.

The sector’s hope is now pegged on the return of international visitors with the optimism being boosted in part by positive news on the development of vaccines.

Nevertheless, the recent rise in COVID-19 infections to include the discovery of an even more contagious variant has served to dilute observed optimism in the sector.

According to Hersi, it may be years before the industry is fully reinstated into normalcy.

“There won’t be much change despite the turn of the year. Nevertheless, 2021 is likely to turn out a better year given the world has continued to learn how to co-exist alongside the virus,” he added.

Shrunk international arrivals across 2020 served to dampen returns for the industry heavily depended on the external sector.

According to data from the Tourism Research Institute (TRI), the number of arrivals fell by 72 per cent between January and October last year while taking away Ksh.37 billion from stakeholders’ purses in the form of lost revenues.

A survey by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) conducted in November had nevertheless revealed improved levels of hotel operations.

Hotels occupancy during the month of November for instance averaged 95.5 per cent from a low 35 per cent across April and May on the back of softened anti COVID-19 restriction measures.