Hotel entrepreneurs dust off corona blues

Suffice to say any entrepreneur who decided to venture into the tourism sector this year must have found themselves grasping onto delicate straws. According to the Ministry of Tourism, in its National Tourism Crisis Report published in June 2020, the tourism industry has lost up to Sh80 billion since the outbreak of Covid-19.

Also about 1.6 million jobs are at risk with the industry having lost about 60-80 per cent of sales. We spoke to Jane Mahianyu, the operations manager at Pendo Villas in Diani, who reveals how the industry has fared and what those intending to put their money into the industry in the post-corona era should expect.

The coronavirus has ravaged the entire hospitality industry. The government has said there are hopes for recovery ahead. How has the pandemic hit Pendo villas and other tourist resorts at the coast?

I would say the times have been tough. Statistics have been churned out clearly showing the difficult environment we have been operating in. But I believe better days will come. Here at Pendo, we had to close down but we have reopened.

The tourism industry at the coast is traditionally inclined towards attracting international tourists. But times are changing. This pandemic has taught us that we have to keep up with the times. We are also now targeting more of domestic tourists. This year things are tough but we are hopeful of a recovery beginning next year.  

There have been reports that Tanzania has been making more revenue in tourism than Kenya. What do you think should be done to improve tourism at the coast and Kenya generally?

Yes, Tanzanians are reaping so much from tourism since they never closed down their economy. Industry data from the two nations’ tourism agencies reveal that Kenya earned $1.6 billion (Sh173 billion) from 2,025,206 foreigners while Tanzania raked in USD2.44 billion (Sh264 billion) from 1.5 million visitors.

Tanzanians are good especially in Zanzibar. What I can say is the president should at least open up the economy; relax travel restrictions so that more visitors can come in. Promotion of local tourism will play a great role.

What about Pendo villas. What are your plans for the resort going forward after the pandemic?

We have reopened the villas now after the corona shock. As I said before, things are turning out quite alright and we are hoping for a business turnaround as the year comes to an end. We have also put our prices to an affordable level. We are welcoming both locals and international guests.

Do you think resorts at the coast such as Pendo are at a place to attract bigger investments as the corona blues where out?

Yes, I believe each resort has a potential. Tourism is a big earner for the country and an enviable employer especially here at the coast. I would say it is prudent to put money in this industry especially now that the government is rolling out huge plans to rejuvenate it.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced in the hospitality sector?

Being a young woman in this industry poses a big problem since few investors can take you seriously. I am 25 years old and currently I am the operations manager at Pendo villas. I started out as a receptionist and I made my way up. If you tackle your work professionally, you are bound to make it. Ambition is also a good thing.      

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