Coronavirus hits tourism industry on Kenya's coast

Restrictions on foreigners coming into Kenya, imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus, have delivered a big hit to the country’s tourism industry, with some hotels on the coast reporting occupancy rates of well below 10 per cent.

A spot check in various hotels around the city of Mombasa on Thursday showed most of the hotels now had an average of 7 per cent occupancy rate or less.

Tourism is among Kenya’s leading foreign exchange earners, bringing in 163.56 billion shillings ($1.56 billion)last year. Mombasa depends largely on tourism for its livelihood.

“We were at 88 per cent, right now we are at 7 per cent. It does not look as if it is growing, and 7 per cent (is) because of the cancellations we had this week,” Victor Shitaka, general manager of Flamingo Beach Hotel, told Reuters.

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Kenya banned entry on Sunday to people travelling from any country with reported coronavirus cases for 30 days, with the exception of Kenyan citizens and foreigners with residence permits, who will have to undergo a period of self-quarantine.

Kenya reported its first case of coronavirus a week ago and now has seven confirmed cases.

Curio traders said the situation felt worse than the years from 2012 to 2015 when visitor numbers fell after a spate of attacks claimed by Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, which wants Kenya to pull its troops out of Somalia.

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“Just look around, no one else here but you and me. This virus it seems has doomed us and sadly after leaving here, mouths are waiting for us back home to feed them,” Safari Juma, a curio trader, told Reuters in Mombasa.

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