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Long recovery ahead for business travel

By Harriet James
Thursday, September 17th, 2020
A wedding event at Tamarind Hotel. Photo/PD/Coutesy.
In summary
    • Hotels are lowering their rates for both accommodation and restaurants and uphold high standard protocols that will ensure safety of travellers.
    • Hotels like Sankara Hotel have day use rooms where locals can just come and use the rooms as an office space or just a space to relax.
    • They also have began private dining rooms for guests who desire to eat with their families in private.

When the Covid-19 pandemic halted travel around the globe, business travellers had to pivot quickly from in-person meetings and events to virtual platforms. Now the hospitality industry is reeling from this change and are finding ways to adapt to the ‘new normal’.

The Covid-19 pandemic has ripped through the travel industry grounding airlines, emptying hotels and putting a stop to almost all business and leisure travel for several months. 

Consequently, this has resulted in many no longer seeing the need to book expensive flights and travel across the globe to meet their partners or even conduct meetings.  

According to the Oxford Business Group, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry estimated that more than 500 trade shows were cancelled in March resulting in €23billion (Sh3.2trillion) in lost orders.

This means that it might take from one to three years to recover, although some predict that between five per cent and 10 per cent of business travel will never return due to failure and bankruptcies of companies that accounted for business travel.

Easily accessible

 “Kenya’s domestic tourism market is strong and that is a key factor in the industry’s recovery. Outbound travel will be minimal and discretionary, and travelers will prefer places easily accessible.

So, overall, domestic business driven by the leisure segment, followed by events will recover faster than any other segment. Business travel will resume slowly and gradually in the second phase,” said Hasnain Noorani, Kenya Coast Hoteliers working group chair.

Sankara hotel is one of the five star hotels catering for business travellers. It opened last week and they were amazed at the support they have received from locals something that they didn’t anticipate.

Though the season has been tough, they have set up creative ways of ensuring that they still have a flow of guests.  

International travel

John Musau, the general manager of Tamarind Hotels has noted an improvement in business travel bookings since lifting of the intercounty lock down and lifting of air travel.

“We have business travellers from Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Eldoret. We have also seen an increase in international travel and every day we have rooms booked by this segment.

However, the government needs to encourage more and safer travel by reducing on airport levies and free visas. We expect September and November to be good months,’ he notes 

In order to attract this domestic business travel market, the hotel has lowered their rates for both accommodation and restaurants and upheld a high standard protocol that will ensure safety while travelers are in their premise.

“We want the local market to sample the very best of accommodation, conferencing, food and drinks and entertainment.

Recently we have started giving free swimming services in our fully heated pool for everyone who consumes a main meal.

We have also extend 30 per cent discount on selected whiskies and wines,” he adds 

Another segment that the hotel has focused on is weddings. “We have become a favourite spot for both local conferences and weddings.

Our gardens combined with our ballroom offer perfect chance for those who need to get married while observing the Ministry of Health protocols.

We provide one stop shop where you can have the church wedding in our well-manicured gardens, the reception in our hall,” he says.

Pride Inn Hotel too has majored on weddings as a way of boosting their revenue. 

Weddings

Weddings on a smaller scale including social events are certainly making business remain afloat as occupancy rates are low and conferences are rare.

“With Covid-19 situation, couples are avoiding going abroad for destination weddings and even holding mega wedding as per government directives.

We too, are witnessing an encouraging response on the events and socials front,” says Farzana Zahir, the Sales and Marketing Director at Pride Inn Group Conferencing.

With the government directives, which have increased the number of people in events to 100, hotels are also utilising this as a way to boost their sales.

“We have adapted to digital conferencing and in future we want to have conferences of just 50 or 30 people attending the venue while the rest will be connected by either Zoom or other applications,” says Cluster General Manager of Villa Rosa Kempinski, Roberto Simone. 

After 40, a hotel situated right at the heart of Nairobi has witnessed an increase in business travel too and to maximise on this, they have meeting rooms where a maximum of 10 people can have their discussions.

“Our guests can have their virtual meetings in our hotels and we have ensured that we have a strong wifi for a smooth flow,” says the hotel’s general manager Nicholas Kinuthia. 

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