Uhuru holds crisis talks with hoteliers over tourism slump

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The country’s battered hoteliers Wednesday met President Uhuru Kenyatta, as the Government makes frantic, but late efforts to salvage the industry from total collapse.

Government officials, the Kenya Tourist Board and governors from the coastal region also attended the meeting at Harambee House, the Office of the President.

The meeting agreed on the need to embark on a recovery strategy immediately. A follow up meeting between the president and industry players is expected to take place tomorrow (Friday) morning, with the private sector expected to table proposals on how to go about resuscitating the country’s second largest foreign exchange earner.

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Major  losses suffered

The effort by the State comes on the back of major losses suffered by the industry over the last one week.

Hoteliers say they have lost over Sh650 million in just a few days following the escalation of travel advisories by key tourist source markets. It is feared that the losses could go as high as Sh5 billion in the coming weeks if the situation does not improve.

Players estimate that the numbers – arrivals and earnings – since the beginning of the year to date could have dipped by as much as 40 per cent compared to last year. There were 255 000 tourists to Kenya in the first quarter of last year, which was in itself a bad year for tourism as it was an election year.

“Tourism is in dire straits… if we do not do a recovery now, it is sunk and we will have to do a lot of work to get it where it was,” explained Fred Kaigua, the chief executive Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO).

“We are currently in deep talks with the Government on how to get the industry back on track.”

The sector crisis comes weeks before the high season. The season runs from July through to October, when the country gets most of its tourism revenues. The season also coincides with the Wildebeest Migration in Masai Mara, a major attraction.

Tens of thousands of hotel staff and employers along the tourism value chain including suppliers are also staring at layoffs as the country’s second largest foreign exchange grinds to a near halt.

Hoteliers say they are yet to start laying off staff, but note that it is inevitable if things do not improve.

Mike Macharia chief executive Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers  said hoteliers have lost hundreds of millions of shillings of confirmed business in the less than one week since the advisories were issued.

He added that there is risk of losing a further Sh5 billion if the situation does not change in the coming months.

-standardmedia.co.ke

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