Kenya tourism industry on the verge of collapse, officials warn
Industry officials on Friday warned that tourism at the Coast was on the verge of collapse with 30,000 to 40,000 staff set to lose their jobs by the end of April.
The Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers (KAHC) said at least 23 hotels have closed since last year and many more are set to close in the coming months.
They attributed the situation to several of factors, most of which they said were out of the investors’ control, adding that the tourism and hospitality sector crisis is worse than the downturns that followed the 1997 Likoni clashes and 2007/2008 post election violence.
Addressing a press conference at Mombasa’s Serena Hotel, KAHC officials led by their chairman Harald Kampa accused government of offering lip service in mitigating the “worst nightmare” facing their businesses.
“We made efforts to sustain the business hoping that the situation would improve but all indications point to a bleak future. Many of us have dropped rates but we can only lower the rates to a particular extent,” said Mr Kampa.
He added: “We lack commitment from the government. We are now going to bypass government and try to reach out to these new markets. We hope the government will not allow us to move to this state of confusion.”
The government, however, recently hired a British public relations firm, Grayling Global, to repair the damage done to Kenya’s image.
Grayling Global has previously said it would promote Kenya’s potential globally and “assist the government in communicating its message effectively both regionally and internationally”.
Executive officer Sam Ikwaye claimed that the government had not indicated its commitment in marketing the sector.
“We require a standalone ministry dedicated to addressing the challenges facing tourism,” said Mr Ikwaye, adding that such a ministry would require an adequate budget and would work with all industry players on a turn-around plan.
He said an independent tourism ministry complemented by serious marketing strategies from the government would be key to the full recovery of the industry projected to happen in two years time.
Mr Kampa said occupancy rate in the first quarter of the year set to end this month has dropped from an average of 50 per cent to less than 20 per cent across the Coast region with South Coast and Watamu hit hardest.
KAHC on Friday held an election in which Mr Kampa was re-elected as chairman with Mr Silas Kiti serving as his deputy.
The new officials said the association’s executive committee would meet in the coming days to agree on new engagements with the government adding that “it will not be business as usual”.
The KAHC officials indicated that the arrival statistics showed a decline in consecutive quarters, with the Kenya Tourism Board having already indicated a 32 per cent drop compared with the same time last year.