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Tour industry asks State for bailout amid travel ban

By Frankline Sunday | April 16th 2021
Tourists at Maasai Mara National Game reserve. [Kipsang Joseph/Standard]

Tour operators are asking the State to offer financial bailouts and lift restrictions for inter-county travel to save the tourism industry from collapse.

In a statement on Thursday, the Kenya Association of Travel Agents (Kata) said new lockdown restrictions announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta at the end of last month dealt a major blow to the sector, which was just recovering. 

“The government’s new Covid-19 restrictions announced on March 26, including suspension of domestic air services, an extended night curfew and a lockdown of five counties dealt a major blow to the industry,” said Kata Chairman Mohammed Wanyoike.

“As the travel agency community, we reacted with incomprehension. We were banking on the Easter bookings to improve our cash flows.”

He said the restrictions, which came despite them adhering to Covid-19 protocols, have compounded the losses accrued from the onset of the pandemic last year.

“All travel agents have been confronted with huge amounts of refund requests for trips that had to be cancelled as a result of lockdowns, border closures and travel restrictions; activities that have left travel agents reeling from unspeakable financial losses,” Wanyoike said.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicates the number of visitors that arrived into the country last year stood at 47,038.

This was a drastic drop from the 1.5 million arrivals recorded in 2019. 

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Wanyoike said the tour and travel industry, mostly made up of small and medium enterprises, continues to face financial challenges from shrinking revenues, putting thousands of jobs on the line. 

According to the CBK’s latest Credit Officer Survey, the tourism sector was one of four last year where lenders tightened credit requirements and standards for borrowers.

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