Tourism stakeholders remain optimistic about 2022 despite the uncertainty caused by Covid-19 and the prevailing politically charged season.
‘’Gradual opening of the economies shows that we have a better understanding of the virus, and one major highlight will be to optimise tourism growth while living with the virus,” said Sam Ikwaye, the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) executive officer. He said the world has entered a new phase that would define new tourism trends.
“The last five years have been a nightmare that affected investment in the industry, starting with campaigns in 2016 and repeat elections in 2017,” Dr Ikwaye said.
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Kenya Association of Women in Tourism (KAWT), Mombasa county chapter chairperson, Ms Janet Chamia, said the expectation on tourism for the new year is high.
“We have a good number, though not there, of Kenyans who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 and preparing well for the booster jab. We remain confident that travel will not be restricted again,” said Chamia, the proprietor of the three-star Jacyjoka Holiday Apartments in Mombasa.
Chamia noted that business trends point to a situation where international travellers will continue to make visits to Kenya since continents that experience the cold winter seasons are still snowy.
Ikwaye adds that Kenya’s resilient nature will be instrumental in the new year since the nation has learnt how to survive with the pandemic compared to other advanced countries that have more stable healthcare systems.
“What is worrying though is how, as a country, we have failed to adjust our democratic processes, especially the cycle of violence and uncertainties that affect business every five years when we go to the polls,” Ikwaye said.
He said that already, the country is in a campaign mood amid a global pandemic.
“It is a terrible sign of 2022 if not well managed. It might render little gains on tourism recovery useless. As an industry that supports a large chunk of the Kenyan population directly or indirectly, we wish to send a clear warning that any acts of violence or ugly anti-business gimmicks will be noted and we shall ensure that such leaders are not elected to any office,” Ikwaye warned.
He reiterated that as an industry, they have wholly mastered the Constitution and 2022 being an election year, they shall be consolidating their influence as a bloc and participate in unison and not just be passive players.
“For those seeking re-election, we shall want to see how they performed and those seeking fresh mandate or newcomers, we shall keenly want to see their characters and how well they have supported the sector in their designations,” said Ikwaye.
Dennis Gwaro, general manager of Plaza Beach Hotel in North Coast, said projections for the new year look promising, with numbers likely to average between 60 and 70 per cent in relation to 2018-2019 pre-Covid numbers.
“We expect to have guests checking into hotels and staying for between two weeks to months. This is because some will be recovering from the loss of not being able to take holiday for the last two years due to travel restrictions which were in place then,” Gwaro said.
The Kenya Coast Tourist Association (KCTA) said it was yet to see tangible recovery measures put in place in the new year by the government in face of the pandemic.
He suggested that the government, through its Tourism ministry agencies like Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), should create a blue line initiative that will boost cruise ships to call at the Port of Mombasa which now boasts of a modern Sh1 billion cruise ship terminal.
KCTA chairman Victor Shitakah said that since the new year is an electioneering one, there is a need for dialogue between industry players and the country’s tourism marketer, KTB, on the way forward.
Shitakah, the managing director of Shitakah& Shitakah Consultancy, said he hopes that Kenyan skies will be fully opened to allow for more international flights to land.
“We need to attract more chartered and scheduled flights to fly into Kenya and compete effectively with neighbouring destinations like Zanzibar that are attracting a number of international airlines from Europe and Asia, already and boosting their hotel occupancies,” he said.