Coast hotels in Kenya now report more enquiries after travel ban review

Tourists and hotel staff at Serena Beach Resort and Spa Hotel in Mombasa. Hoteliers in Coast say things are looking up after the UK lifted its travel advisory. (PHOTO: MAARUFU MOHAMED/STANDARD)

Tourist hotels on the Kenyan coast have reported a significant rise in booking inquiries from international and local tour guides following last week’s lifting of travel advisory by the United Kingdom.

While the operators say the lifting of the advisory will not lead to an immediate spike in actual arrivals, they predicted a rise in bookings after US President Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya next month.

The hotel players reported yesterday that inquiries for space had shot up by 30 per cent in the last five days since the UK lifted the non-essential travel ban, signalling promising times on Coastal tourism circuit that has been reeling from insecurity and travel advisories.

“Though it is very early to assess the impact of the lifting of the advisory, I must say that inquiries have increased compared to, say, a week before, and I can say it is between 25 and 30 per cent,” said Sai Rock General Manager, Robert Kiri.

He said an international conference that will bring to Mombasa over 106 African ports managers have already booked for November 16, next year.

Tourism Executive Job Tumbo said Ireland, China and Italy have also have also indicated that they will take part in the November Mombasa International Cultural Festival.

He said the number of exhibitors who have registered to take part in the ten-day fete has surpassed last year’s attendees.

“I tried to negotiate for a space and packages in tourists’ hotels for 50 guests coming from Kericho, but I was told they will be full,” said Tumbo.

Hoteliers at the Coast yesterday expressed optimism that next month’s visit by US President Barrack Obama and the planned Mombasa International Cultural Festival will shore up tourist numbers.

They said Britain’s decision has had a knock-on effect on the domestic and regional markets, as they have been increased inquiries and bookings for the August and December holidays by local tourists.

In Taita Taveta, hoteliers interviewed also said ‘the future looks bright’ especially due to President Obama’s upcoming visit.

“We are yet to record full bookings in spite of the UK ban review, but there are inquiries and things might change after Obama’s visit next month. His visit will also be an endorsement of our safari circuit,” he said.

At Flamingo Beach Resort in Mombasa, Aggrey Awuor, the hotel’s head of finance, said they were optimistic that the inquiries will result in reservations.

Duplicate products

“Africa Last minute Ltd, a tour guide that mostly handles the Swiss tourists in the region’s safari circuit, has made inquiry with an aim to reserve rooms. ITS Jahn Reisen and Tjaereborg, which also handle the German tourists on Safari at the Coast, have also made enquiries,” said Mr Awour.

Other than the sun-drenched beaches and refreshing breezes, the Coast region also boasts parks which characterise the southern Kenyan Safari Circuit.

Tumbo, however, warned of the “monkey see monkey do” trend where hoteliers at the Coast were all investing in conference tourism facilities instead of coming up with new products.

Yesterday, Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers, Coast branch Executive Officer Sam Ikwaye said some of the inquiries were from tourists who were in other parts of the country. “We can only assess the impact of UK’s decision to lift the ban, say, in November as the inquires being recorded are coming from guests who were in the country already who may want to enjoy safari to the region now that the advisory has been lifted,” said Ikwaye.

He said the British government’s decision to cancel the advisory will also create confidence in the domestic and regional markets and this result in increased arrivals for the August and December holidays.

Yesterday, hoteliers in Tsavo and Amboseli said bed occupancy was still at 20 per cent. Tsavo and Amboseli Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers Chairperson Willy Mwadilo said they had not expected the sector to start recovering soon.