Tourism players fault Mutua over hotel classification

Tourism CS Alfred Mutua. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Stakeholders in the tourism industry have hit out at Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua over remarks on hotel classification.

Tourism Professional Association (TPA) national secretary Sam Ikwaye said that Dr Mutua's decision to question how some hotels were ranked was ill-timed as the industry was yet to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

"It is unfortunate that the remarks are made when every other destination is promoting their products. Our highest government official made utterances to discredit facilities,'' he said.

Dr Ikwaye regretted that the CS's remarks imply that investors who have worked so hard to set up standards upon which they were rated compromised the assessment process.

"Hotel classification criteria is a wonderful tool for use by any hotel/ restaurant that cares about performance and profits. It is not just about star rating. It is a friendly tool, a well-thought-out document that even got recognition by the UN World Tourism Organisation which encouraged its adoption by the entire East African Community region," he said.

The TPA secretary general who is also an accredited classification assessor said that before the classification in 2014-2016, the Hotels and Restaurant Authority (HRA) which has now been replaced by the Tourism Regulatory Authority (TRA) had failed to conduct credible classification.

"A new set of assessors were trained from diverse agencies and backgrounds including those from the private sector and under the East African Community, the new team was gazetted," he said..

"For the first time, credible processes were done and the industry appreciated the process and outcome. There was even an appeal process used by many members who felt they needed a second consideration. Clearly, the CS is misinformed, questions on the lips of many are by who and with what intentions?" Posed Ikwaye.

Last week, Mutua while presiding over the launch of Mara Tourism and Wildlife College in Pardamat Conservancy, Narok West, warned that some hotels currently enjoying five-star status could be downgraded for failing to meet the standards.

The CS said that hotel classification in the past failed the objectivity and transparency test and some hotels do not deserve the status they enjoy.

"For too long, we have turned a blind eye to the discrepancies within our hotel classification system. Corruption has seeped into the very foundations of our industry, casting a shadow over the true gems of hospitality," he said.

He claimed that the hotel classification has been marred by subjectivity and favouritism, neglecting the standards that should be the cornerstone of the hospitality industry.

Ikwaye told the CS to show support to investors and engage them more to understand the Kenyan tourism product well and help promote the sector.

"Let the CS ensure that private sector inclusion and professionals. Best ratings are from guests who sample what hotels offer," he said.

He said that in the past there were tough-talking government officials pushing policies only to turn out to be big scams.

Another stakeholder who wished to remain anonymous said that it is interesting to see how an inherited lie told from generations becomes the accepted truth. "In fact the opposite is true, after the first national classification was done (strictly by the book), hotel star ratings were downgraded with big hotels feeling invisible. Who dared rate them while mid and small hotels appreciated the efforts then," said the stakeholder.

Kenya Coast Tourist Association (KCTA) CEO Julius Owino called for conclusive engagements with stakeholders to enable the CS to be fully appraised on the nitty-gritty of the industry.

"Revoking existing star ratings without following due process will be disastrous and ill-advised," Owino said.

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