Nairobi hotels hardest hit in hospitality sector woes

Nairobi hotels hardest hit in hospitality sector woes

Hotels in Nairobi have been hit the hardest as the hospitality sector struggles to crawl out of effects resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is according to a new survey on hotels by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) published earlier this week.

According to the survey, while 97 per cent of hotels reported operations in January, overall bed occupancy stood at a dismal 21 per cent and was lower in Nairobi-based establishments at 17 per cent in contrast to 24 per cent for the rest of the country.

The survey attributed the lower occupancy rates in the capital to the city being the epicenter of COVID-19 infections in the country.

Additionally, conferencing services which have been the mainstay business for Nairobi hotels have been greatly affected by the effects of the pandemic in contrast to restaurant services.

The operation of restaurant services for instance averaged 26 per cent in January, with the services in Nairobi sitting at a lower 23 per cent.

Meanwhile conferencing services have averaged 18 per cent with the services being more prominent outside Nairobi at 19 per cent.

Employment rates have followed the rate of operations with hotels in Nairobi reporting lower staff levels at 51 per cent against an average 57 per cent at the start of 2021.

A visit inside some of the Nairobi iconic hotels by Citizen Digital including the Villa Rosa Kempinski, Sarova (Stanley & Panafric) and Hilton Nairobi has revealed limited operations with just a handful of conferences in contrast to pre-COVID-19 levels.

In December, Radisson Blu shut its conferencing hub along Upper Hill’s Elgon road as conferences dried up on the back of tough restrictions including the suspension of passenger flights and the imposition of a night time curfew.

For some such as the Intercontinental Nairobi, the pandemic proved to be a last straw for its operations with its management announcing plans to wind up the establishment.

Hotels in the city have now been forced to innovate to survive the pandemic’s aftershocks.

For instance, PrideInn Azure has innovated conferencing to feature a combination of both in person and virtual meetings.

“We have come to a point in time where, because of this volatility in travel restrictions, people are still not confident of travel. How do we then still host conferences is the question,” said PrideInn Group Managing Director Hasnain Noorani.

Hospitality has been the worst hit sector of the economy having contracted by 83.2 per cent and 57.9 per cent in the second and third quarters of 2020 respectively.

Nevertheless, the sector has remained bullish of a resumption to normal operating levels in 2021 with Nairobi establishments expressing the greater levels of optimism at 59 per cent.