Hospitality industry players in Kisumu city are up in arms over what they term a deliberate plan by the organisers of next week's national devolution conference to deny them business.
Hoteliers in the lakeside city are now threatening to demonstrate and derail the planned second national devolution conference scheduled to run from April 21 to 23 and expected to host about 6,000 guests. They plan to protest the decision by the Kisumu county government and the Council of Governors (CoG) to allegedly deny them the opportunity to capitalise on the national event.
The hotel owners say the organisers offered Nairobi-based hotels the opportunity to cater instead of local ones. The 100 hotel owners said this during a stormy meeting at a Kisumu hotel yesterday that was convened by the county government.
They wondered why they are only allowed to offer accommodation to the guests "as the organisers have agreed with two Nairobi hotels to cater for both lunch and dinner". The hoteliers also demanded upfront payment.
George Okungu, the proprietor of Rock Motel, called for a reversal of the decision. "We are wondering why the hotels from Nairobi have been contracted to provide lunch and dinner to the guests," Okungu said.
He added: "We have hosted all our presidents in this country. We have served regional heads of state, World Bank officials and our son Barack Obama when he was the Illinois senator, senators, MPs and MCAs. What is different this time?" Okungu asked.
Savannah Hotel General Manager Richard Kisimayu read mischief in the whole matter.
"We were not consulted from the beginning. We even don't know how tendering was done. It is better to tender and lose than to be left in the dark," he said.
Joshua Otieno, manager of St Johns Manna Hotel said: "Imagine workers wearing the Nairobi hotels' uniforms cooking in Kisumu. It is an insult to our intelligence. We have very many hospitality graduates here."
Though he admitted the Parliamentary Service Commission staff and a delegation from Kiambu County have been booked into his hotel, he maintained they must pay upfront.
Meanwhile, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru said the overall objective of the conference, with the theme "Celebrating the Gains of Devolution", is to create a platform for devolution actors to address challenges and issues arising from process.
"This is an opportune time to take stock of the milestones that have been achieved thus far and appreciate the challenges," said the CS adding that the participants would be footing their bills.
President Uhuru Kenyatta will officially open the event which will bring together all stakeholders and has been organised by the Devolution ministry together with the CoG.
Governors and their deputies, senators, MPs, women representatives, members of county assemblies, private sector members, internal and external technocrats are among those expected at the event.
Kisumu Chief of Staff Kennedy Hongo said his committee in conjunction with the CoG and the local business community has worked tirelessly to make sure the event is a success.
Israel Agina, chairman of Kisumu Business Coalition said: "We agreed with the governors that this is not a Kisumu affair but a regional matter and our county will only accommodate a number that we can cater for," Agina said.
He said he has contacted all the big hotels in Kisumu and many have confirmed that they are booking guests into their facilities.
Ranguma appealed to all leaders from the region to support the event and help showcase its economic opportunities. Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga said should there be a spill over, "our county is ready to help".