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Tourism chokes after Sh80b lost

By Jeckonia Otieno | Jun 30th 2020 | 3 min read
By Jeckonia Otieno | June 30th 2020

Tourism and Wildlife CS Najib Balala with CAS Joseph Boinnet during the launch of National Tourism Crisis Steering Committee report on the impact of Covid-19 on Tourism Industry in Nairobi on June 29, 2020.  [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Kenyan tourism sector has lost about Sh80 billion since the breakout of Covid-19 in December last year.

Wildlife and Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said this during the launch of a report on the impact of the virus in Kenya, yesterday.

“We lost 50 per cent of our revenue of Sh160 billion with the second half of the year being as good as zero,” said Balala at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), Nairobi.

The CS also projected that for the first half of the current financial year, Kenya will get just 30 per cent of expected revenue. He attributed this massive drop to grounding of the aviation sector which is the largest contributor to tourism.

“The aviation sector has not taken off yet and it will take some time. In the first six months of this year, we are going to focus on domestic tourism, but of course, we know the first thing we have to do is contain the virus,” he said.

The report dubbed ‘Impact of Covid-19 on Tourism in Kenya, The Measures Taken and The Recovery Pathways’, sampled the significant effects of the Covid-19 on the sector. It was commissioned by the National Tourism Crisis Steering Committee under the Tourism Ministry.

Some of the noted effects include pay cuts, job losses and unpaid leaves. Eight one per cent of respondents noted that their organisations had reduced the number of employees due to the pandemic. “85.5 per cent respondents reported that their organisation had taken a pay cut to survive the loss of revenue,” the report says.

The tourism market also suffered significant loses with 65 per cent cancellations by domestic tourists; 38 per cent by regional visitors and 81 per cent being international tourists. 

“The international tourist market was the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic as reported by most respondents. This was followed by the domestic and regional tourist markets,” noted the report.

But the report is optimistic that the sector will bounce back once parks are reopened, even as it decried the impact of the pandemic at the county level. Some of the negative effects in the counties include the closure of hospitality businesses due to travel restrictions; diminished revenues to county governments; loss to the agricultural sector due to lack of market; losses from the suspension of state events like Madaraka Day; and reduction of domestic tourism due to travel restrictions.

Among some of the mitigation measures, the study found include increased marketing, public-private partnerships, counties injecting funds in tourism, small and medium enterprises, tax reliefs and encouraging community participation.

Some of the pathways suggested by the report include special, discounted rates and waiver of cancellation fees depending on the season. Product improvement is another area the report reiterates has to be taken care of alongside price revisions for tourists.

“Develop competitive airline packages that will encourage more Kenyans to move from one county to another for holidaying purposes. The current packages charged by the local carriers (both private and public) are not friendly to many Kenyans thus halting domestic tourism movements,” notes the report which also proposes lifting of travel restrictions between counties.  

Tomorrow, the CS will launch the tourism sector protocol to guide operations in the sector. He also hinted that domestic tourism will start in July.

“Of course we know there are some international tourists coming in December for the holidays but proper recovery will be in the summer of 2021,” said Balala.

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