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Hotel classification takes off amid murmurs over results

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By Philip Mwakio | Aug 4th 2015 | 3 min read
By Philip Mwakio | August 4th 2015
FINANCIAL STANDARD
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie

After many false starts, the classification of hotels and restaurants kicked off last June, with the exercise covering Western region, Nyanza and parts of the greater Rift Valley. More than 50 hotels have been examined, ready to be awarded star ratings.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie said the grading and classification exercise is being done using the East African Community guidelines. “Officials handling the classification exercise have been reviewing the results of previous exercises done under local rules, aimed at giving the industry the confidence of a true outcome,” she said recently in Mombasa.

The delay in the exercise has been due to inadequate funding. The Coast region, which is the bedrock of tourism, is still waiting for the exercise to be carried out. The region has suffered as a result of insecurity, terrorism and travel advisories by key source markets.

Hoteliers at the Coast, however, heaved a sigh of relief, saying they have been given enough time to prepare for the classification exercise. But two months after the exercise kicked off, concerns have risen over the manner in which the Tourism Regulatory Authority (TRA) has failed to release results of the first phase, mainly from Western, Nyanza and some parts of the Rift Valley after the lapse of the 60 days. A hotelier who spoke to Business Beat said there has been no communication from the State agency charged with hotel classification, long after the exercise kicked off.

“We are perturbed at the lack of communication and this has led to anxiety, yet we are in the tourism recovery stage, where we all hope to be rated and set out on aggressive marketing of our properties,” the hotelier said.

Many investors in the industry also want the State to scrutinise illegal lodges and tented camps, especially in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. He said these unlicensed properties had proved difficult to identify in previous attempts.

“Delayed release of classification results is like delayed justice for investors as well as clients who continue to be charged on the basis of standards that do not exist,” the hotelier noted.

The Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast Branch Executive, Sam Ikwaye, said the classification exercise should be on the basis of their standards and quality because guests are able to bargain and pay for a particular value.

Gelian Hotel General Manager Ben Katungi said they are eager to have the classification conducted. “We are ready and rearing to go. In fact, we had hoped that Eastern region would have been the first to be classified,” Katungi said in Machakos town. He observed that the hotel classification exercise will enhance tourism products and separate performers from those who do not meet expectations and standards. “It is good for tourism and I believe it will be an incentive for hotels, resorts, and lodges to improve and aim for better standards,” Mr Katungi observed.

Eagle Palace Hotel Nakuru General Manager Farid Abdalah said hotel standards will improve once the classification is completed. “In one of my initial postings as general manager on the spicy Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar, we handled Jamaican dance hall artist Shaggy and one of the requirements was his room was to have a play station, which hotels in Kenya do not have,” Mr Abdalah said. He noted that with classification, ratings will improve hotel standards and reposition Kenya on the world tourism map.

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