Hotels face drop in revenue as pandemic hits occupancy rate
By Standard Team | March 31st 2020
Dozens of hotels are shutting down across the country as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic begin to be felt.
In Nyeri town, th
e iconic White Rhino Hotel has been closed indefinitely. The hotel shut its doors last Friday with an official citing the safety and well-being of guests and employees.
Operations Director Patrick Kairu released a statement saying they will remain closed until the health crisis is resolved.
“Since this is a developing situation globally, we are not in a position to state when we will resume our operations. Like everybody else, we hope that this pandemic ends soon,” said Mr Kairu.
Maiyan Hotel in Nanyuki has also been shut down with the management citing “the economic turmoil occasioned by the pandemic and the rules set by the government banning operations of hotels and restricting them to take-away basis.”
General Manager Omar Ikram said, “The take-away regulation did not work for us because we are located far from town. We only got one take-away guest after the order was issued.”
Mr Ikram said all prior bookings had been pushed to later dates, adding that they would not lay off members of staff.
“We are currently not taking any reservations until further notice. We are following and monitoring the situation as it evolves and will provide further updates in due course.”
The management of Mount Kenya Safari Cub has also scaled down operations following a drop in the number of guests, with some employees sent on leave.
The Sportsman’s Arms Hotel in Nanyuki, another favourite of travellers to central Kenya, has also closed its doors.
In Kisumu, a number of high-end hotels have also scaled down their operations to below 10 per cent as the pandemic brought business and leisure travel to a grinding halt.
This as Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o and County Commissioner Susan Waweru called for a total lockdown to prevent the coronavirus disease from spreading.
The Grand Royal Swiss Hotel was the first to shut down last Tuesday, with the management temporarily sending home 120 employees.
Manager Shanzwaz Basheer said business had dropped sharply with no bookings in the past one week.
“Until the beginning of March, we were operating at between 70 and 80 per cent capacity, but it dimmed with increasing cases of Covid-19 reported in the country,” said Mr Basheer.
The manager said with reports of suspected coronavirus cases in Siaya, and the tracing of some contacts in Kisumu, there was need to close down the facility to protect the staff and guests.
Basheer, however, noted that the closure did not affect staff jobs as the employees were advised to take annual leave.
“As you may be aware, many people in this industry work even during holidays and weekends because of the nature of our business. So this is an opportunity for them to compensate,” he said.
Imperial Hotel Manager Michael Kamau said the facility was operating at about 15 per cent capacity, with a number of services temporarily halted.
“We cannot shut down completely at this point because we know there could be a few people travelling to this part of the country who may require our services,” said Mr Kamau.
He said they were no longer cooking and serving meals as a measure to reduce staff contact with guests, adding that they were instead providing packed food.
“Out of the over 50 staff, we are operating with about three at a time,” said Kamau, adding that they would monitor the situation and adjust their operations accordingly.
Acacia Premier Hotel Manager Dan Mwangi said they had scaled down operations to about 10 per cent as a way of reducing costs.
“We are not thinking of closing down the hotel yet, but we have had to reduce operations because the number of guests has reduced,” said Mr Mwangi.
The hotel operators, however, exuded confidence that the situation would soon normalise to enable them get back to business.
A few said they were using the break to carry out renovations and maintenance work.
“We hope all will be well soon so that we can get back to work,” said Kamau.
Taxi drivers, whose business largely depends on ferrying tourists and other hotel guests, expressed fears that they would be hit hard by the pandemic.
“For me, I rely on transporting guests between Kisumu town and the airport. Once guests are not coming, I have nothing to take home,” said Samwel Ouma.
The situation is equally dire in Naivasha where over 60 per cent of hotels that mainly host conferences have been forced to either close down or scale down operations in the last two weeks.
Some of the facilities that have suspended their operations include Enashipai Spa, Panorama, Sopa, Lake Naivasha Resort, Heritage Resort and Crayfish Camp.
Crayfish CEO Peter Mehta, who is also the chairman of South Lake Hoteliers, said nearly all their bookings had been cancelled.
“Many of our members rely on conferences but since the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the country, we have had cancellation after cancellation of bookings,” said Mr Mehta.
He added that many hotels were working with a skeleton staff with the rest of the employees sent away on a one-month paid leave.
Mehta said the situation has been worsened by the cancellation of all passenger flights into the country.
“We are heading to Easter when bookings overwhelm us. But at the moment, debts, including our staff salaries, have left us paupers,” he said.
Heritage Resort General Manager George Njuguna said he had been forced to send nearly 60 workers home after failing to attract any booking for the past one week.
Enashipai Director James Mwangi, in a letter to the staff, said they had temporarily suspended operations for their safety and that of visitors.
[Jacinta Mutura, Kevine Omollo, Anne Atieno and Antony Gitonga]
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