Anxiety looms in hotel industry despite eased pandemic restrictions

By Noel Wandera
Friday, October 16th, 2020
Crowne Plaza. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

MARKET: As economic activities slowly pick up  and businesses roar back from coronavirus shocks, uncertainty still looms over the hospitality industry, with players fearful  recovery efforts will take long.

Hoteliers the Business Hub spoke to cite inadequate clientele, the mandatory quarantine measures currently in place, a second Covid-19 wave sweeping through Kenya’s traditional source markets, lack of a vaccine and the new normal life as some of the issues that makes recovery a long-haul journey.

Transit passengers

Barnabas Wamoto, General Manager of Crowne Plaza Nairobi Airport says the facility heavily depends on airline and transit passengers, and are worried that although the international airspace has been opened, it’s not business as usual, as few people have opted to travel.

“Not all airlines are back. We are experiencing a low load, meaning footfall to the hotel is not big,” adds Wamoto.

He says that some countries like India and China have not opened up, this is in addition to a second wave in Europe that will hold travellers back.

A month after resumption of international air travel to the country, the Ministry of Tourism released statistics in September, showing a paltry 14,049 international arrivals out of which 6,368 came to visit family or friends, 3,685 for holiday, 2,325 on business, 1,129 in transit, 221 for education, 194 for medical, 72 for religious purposes, 47 for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibition (MICE), and eight for sports.

“To give perspective to these,” says Wamoto: “A room capable of holding 100 people will only be able to accommodate 40 persons as we must maintain social distancing rules.”

He says a significant amount of money will be lost through the Mice sector because many corporations are now embracing virtual meetings and should they meet physically the numbers are resticted to half what a converence room can admit.

“In terms of recovery, it is still uncertain because we still don’t have a vaccine. And even if one is found, how affordable will it be,” he asks.

At Movenpick hotel run by Accor Kenya, General Manager Mehdi Morad said the lifting of alcohol sale for residential clients by President Uhuru Kenyatta in September was a shot in the arm, allowing the hotel establishment to design offers to entice their local clients.