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Hotel sector warms up to new normal

By Thorn Mulli | June 26th 2020

Hemingways Hotel in Nairobi. Many hotels are warming up to reopening after closure due to Covid-19 pandemic. [File, Standard]

The tourism industry can heave a sigh of relief after the government gave the clearest indication yet of a gradual resumption of services.

This follows the unveiling of new guidelines by the National Tourism and Hospitality Protocols Task Force through a gazette notice dated May 29, 2020.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said the protocols unveiled earlier this week will greatly contribute to positioning Kenya as a safe and secure destination during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

In what ushers in a new dawn for the hospitality industry, you can expect a few glaring deviations in how businesses will be expected to operate as proposed in the 43-page draft, whose final copy will be unveiled on July 1.

The Standard highlights some of the new practices that hotel guests should expect.

Frequent sanitising and compliance certificates 

Regardless of the nature of your service, all the tourism and hospitality establishments, travel and tour companies, accommodation facilities, eateries, food and beverage outlets, entertainment and recreation facilities shall institute various measures to ensure their patrons and staff remain safe at all times.

To this end, all players will be required to, among common sense directives, display valid licences and certificate/permit or stickers signifying compliance with the provision of these protocols.

All core staff are also expected to have valid Covid-19 free certification not more than 14-days-old from a government-approved facility.

As such, expect to engage more with service providers virtually through applications than you did previously. Also, expect to encounter a designated health officer or team in place at all times depending on the size of the facility as well as staff wearing masks and gloves as long as required as per risk-based approach.

The health protocols, however, are not limited to service providers. Guests will be required to make advance bookings/reservation before visiting any facility or tourist attraction site. You will also be required to complete a medical and travel declaration form online before your arrival.

Bye-bye beach boys, buffet, caddies and facials

In what might hurt smaller players in the short-term, hospitality establishments will be required to operate at half capacity to allow for proper social distancing. This enhanced spacing will also serve to allow a newly vacated room to “idle” for at least one day before a subsequent check-in. Guests will also have to make do with fewer luxuries as it is proposed that extra cushions, throws, blankets and décor items be removed from rooms. Extra room amenities like iron boxes as well as sewing, shoe cleaning and vanity kits will only be available on request.

Some aspects of in-house wellness centres for hotels should expect less traffic. It is proposed that facial treatments remain suspended until the situation is reviewed. To prevent crowding at the gym, establishments are encouraged to provide creative alternative forms of exercise such as running or hiking to involve their guests. Lovers of the gentleman’s game will also have to make do without caddies, as they are encouraged to carry their own golf bags around the course while playing alone, in twos or threes for social distancing purposes. For those keen on water sports adventure, kindly note that tight canoes with limited space where clients cannot observe the current MoH social distancing regulations shall not to be used. 

Enhanced inter-county movement 

In a bid to spur touristic activity, county governments in collaboration with the Tourism Regulatory Authority shall, among other things, issue approval declaration for facilities and attraction sites within their jurisdiction free to allow tourists access to the facilities without any hindrance. Despite existing travel restrictions, it will also be easy for tourists in Tourist Service compliant vehicles to make inter-county travel once these proposals are adopted. Speaking of vehicles, as is with Public Service Vehicles, a maximum recommended capacity is to be observed for each class of vehicle.

Mandatory staff training on protocols  

With the heightened safety requirements, establishments will be required to train all their staff on the new protocols. In what might be a continuation of the “work-from-home” procedures, non-essential service providers will be encouraged to work from their homes to allow for social distancing. Expect an increase in the use of perspex screens to separate workstations where applicable. As such, office staff shifts shall be staggered and teams or shifts reduced to limit the number of staff in offices. Where a staff member is confirmed Covid-19 positive, all staff on that members’ shift shall self-isolate for 14 days after which they shall be retested.

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