Seafront hotels in Diani Beach are bracing for the peak tourism season as holidaymakers flock back to the sandy beaches while bed occupancy increases.
Hotels, lodges and other accommodation facilities are reporting heavy bookings for the upcoming Christmas and New Year holiday weeks.
In some cases, this year’s occupancy rates are a stark contrast with the last two years’ numbers, when the travel industry was left reeling under the coronavirus pandemic.
Diani Beach in Kwale County is the preferred holiday destination for many Kenyans and foreign visitors and each year it receives a record number of holidaymakers arriving to savour its beautiful sandy beaches and tropical ambience.
The Beach has been voted the best beach destination in Africa six years in a row by the World Travel Awards.
Stakeholders in the hospitality industry say beach hotels and other tourist establishments are reporting brisk reservations and bookings, ahead of the Christmas and New Year festivities.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast branch Executive Officer Sam Ikwaye says the festive season looks promising for those in the tourism, travel and hospitality industry.
Ikwaye says advance bookings and reservations witnessed had been ‘very encouraging,’ with local holidaymakers accounting for the highest percentage.
“The signs are that this will be an extremely busy and fully booked festive period,” said Dr. Ikwaye adding that hotel bed occupancy is currently oscillating between 80-90 percent.
Dr. Ikwaye says industry players are expecting hotels to be fully booked ‘and it looks like it will be a bumper December and New Year holiday season’.
He says hotels have organized various events to mark the December and New Year festivities among them water sports, family dinners and live entertainment to keep holidaymakers happy.
Speaking during a consultative tourism stakeholders’ forum at Neptune Paradise Beach Resort and Spa, the KAHC Executive Officer attributes the rise in bed occupancy to the improved levels of consumer confidence within the tourism and hotels sector.
Ikwaye says the return of international tourists shows that they have confidence in the country’s political stability after the hotly contested August 9, 2022 General Election.
He says domestic and international tourists are once again flocking coastal tourist destinations, following political stability and after the world eased down a prolonged Covid-19-related clampdown, noting that tourism-dependent businesses were among those harmed the most by the pandemic.
Ikwaye says it is already promising to be a record-breaking month of December and New Year festivities, saying that the majority of rooms in leading tourist resorts are already sold out during the holiday weeks.
Ikwaye at the same time urged the Kenya Ferry Services to improve services noting that the number of passengers and motorists using the Likoni Channel is expected to rise during the festive season.
He says the transport crisis in the past at the crucial crossing channel had dealt a major blow to the tourism industry in Diani Resort town.
Ikwaye says perennial delays often lead to tourists who are on holidays in Diani to miss their return flights at the Moi International Airport, Mombasa.
Baobab Beach Resort and Spa General Manager Jeff Mukolwe says as the peak tourist season swings into high gear high occupancy rates are expected in the coming days and weeks.
“Hotels are receiving advance bookings and we feel that it’s going to be a pretty good season for the tourism industry players,” said Mkolwe, adding that his hotel is already hosting 700 guests.
“We are actually expecting an increase in foreign and domestic visitors this holiday season if the enhanced bookings and reservations we have had in the past few days are anything to go by,” he said.
The veteran hotelier said there were many domestic tourists from Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, Nyeri and other upcountry towns flocking the region.
“But we also have a modest rise in international tourism from Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, USA, Britain and other European source markets,” he said.
Mkolwe says most beach hotels are expecting 100 percent bed occupancy in the coming days, adding that hoteliers were making ‘efforts to improve safety and security of their guests’.
“We are very busy and happy with how the season is turning out. Christmas and New Year are looking very good and most hotels are fully booked with domestic and international tourists,” said Mkolwe.
Kwale County Commissioner (CC) Gideon Oyagi says security has been tightened ahead of the Christmas and New Year festive season in anticipation of high numbers of both local and international tourists.
Oyagi says police have beefed up security for the festivities to effectively deter criminal activities.
He says police have started securing places of worship, public beaches and other tourist spots to ensure a peaceful environment before, during and after the December and New Year celebrations.
Oyagi who is also the chairman of the County Security and Intelligence Committee said security patrols have been intensified ahead of the festivity and warned those who may be planning to take advantage of the holidays to engage in crime that they will face the full force of the law.
“We have intensified security patrols across the region in order to thwart any criminal incidents and we appeal for cooperation from the public,” he said.
The county commissioner added that ‘the government has taken stringent measures to ensure that tourists and residents are safe as they make merry.
By Hussein Abdullahi