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Hotels reduce rates to woo domestic tourists

By Joackim Bwana | November 9th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Joy Wanjiku of Leopard Beach hotel, Diani, supports Cruz Maweu through various kids water games during the reopening of the hotel’s Little Leopards Kids Club, last week. The club had been closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

Hoteliers at the Coast have cut rates by up to 55 per cent as they desperately try to woo domestic tourists following massive cancellations by foreign travellers.

The sector is staring at what industry players have described as the “worst third quarter in the recent past” due to the devastating effects of Covid-19 pandemic around the world.

In September, hoteliers projected the sector would start to recover in the third quarter or during December holidays, but the second wave of Covid-19 has dampened those hopes.

Several industry players said yesterday that they have been forced to subsidise the rates of all-inclusive packages to woo domestics tourists.

Traditionally, the rates are high in December because of high demand from locals travelling to the Coast for the festive season and the winter seasons abroad.

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New model

Yesterday, Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) said the hoteliers would have to re-model their business strategies to attract local tourists to remain afloat.

KTB said this year has been hard for the tourism sector due to massive cancellations and travel restrictions by different countries to keep the virus at bay.

“We should turn this pandemic into an opportunity for Kenyans to rediscover what their country offers in terms of tourism and unique destinations like Lamu,” said KTB Public Relations and Corporate Manager Wausi Walya.

Walya said the recent statistics indicate that most Kenyans were travelling and the agency hopes that the numbers will continue to go up during the December holiday.

Some of the areas recording high numbers of local tourists are Masai Mara and Lamu.

“Eighty per cent of the hotels in Lamu, especially private houses, are open at the weekends with over 80 per cent occupancy levels, and between 30 and 50 per cent occupancy on weekdays. This is commendable,” said Walya yesterday.

She said about 4,000 people visited Lamu during last year’s holiday peak in December compared to the 1,900 recorded by September 2020.

According to Palm Beach Hotel General Manager Mahmoud Alam Eldin, hoteliers have reviewed rates downwards to accommodate and shore up the number of local tourists. 

He said spouses can now enjoy a family stay with their children aged between 12 and 13 at an all-inclusive package of Sh13,000 for a double room per night.

In the past, such packages used to go for an average of Sh35,000 or Sh20,000 for half-board in most hotels across the coastal region.

Eldin said most of their past clients were from Europe and America, but the Covid-19 pandemic has seen the hotel rely on local tourists.

Baobab Beach Resort General Manager Gabriel Kipsang said the local market has been supportive.

He, however, noted that all-inclusive packages cannot work for small hotels. Kipsang said most of the guests who check in are families and spouses.

Neptune Hotels General Manager Jackson Kifoto said local tourists would provide a stable base for hoteliers as they navigate through the Covid-19 pandemic challenges.

“We should focus on the local market as our base, then turn to other African countries and Europe for stability,” said Kifoto.

Rate vs quality

He added: “The subsidised all-inclusive packages offered by most hotels should not be interpreted as cheap or low quality.” 

KTB on September 30 launched eight new logos for each coastal county under their mother logo, The Kenya Coast, in a bid to showcase what each region has to offer in regard to tourism products and experience.

The logos showcase the different experiences found in Lamu, Diani, Malindi, Watamu, Tana River and Tsavo.

“The eight brands and their mother brand - The Kenya Coast - from the south to the north provide an identity for the region and make the traveller yearn for what each of them offers,” said Walya.

She said the initiative by Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala in collaboration with the private sector seeks to nurture and get the regions to complement rather than compete with each other.

Walya said the visitors should focus more on experiences offered by the different regions than getting confined in the hotels.

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