Hotels and lodges in Tsavo have reported a surge in bookings ahead of the Christmas festivities in an indicator that a sector devastated by Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 is on the path to recovery.
Some hotels have reported bookings hovering at 60 percent but this number is expected to surge to over 80 percent by the time Christmas comes.
Manager of Taita-Hills and Salt Lick Safari Lodges and Spa Mr. Wilmot Mwadilo said there was a significant rise in Christmas bookings compared to the same period last year, adding that the bulk of the bookings were by domestic tourists.
“The outlook is better. We have bookings that are higher than those of the same period last year,” he said.
The rise in the numbers of holiday-goers is an encouraging pointer to the post-Covid-19 resurgence in a sector that lost billions of shillings last year.
Last year, at the height of Covid-19 pandemic in Kenya, hotels in Tsavo reported little activity with most cutting down on staff for lack of customers. Others retained a skeleton crew to maintain the facilities while most other workers were laid off.
However, with the lifting of travel restrictions and relaxing of other government-imposed conditions, the sector is recovering if the number of bookings and activities is anything to go by.
Mwadilo added that international bookings from Europe remained significantly lower than expected but still expressed optimism the numbers might go up.
He however disclosed that bookings by tourists from Tanzania, especially the Northern region of Arusha and Tanga, were rapidly going up.
He attributed this to the marketing drive to Tanzania as a strategy to expand the domestic and regional market. Currently, Tanzania visitors constitute 20 percent of the total number of visitors coming for bookings at the hotel.
“We have been marketing our services in Northern Tanzania as part of diversification of the base we get our clients from. We are delighted that our efforts are yielding results,” he said.
Other hoteliers in the region shared similar sentiments with the manager of Voi Wildlife Lodge Mr. Augustine Mwanake saying the bookings were still lower than pre-Covid 19 pandemic but remained hopeful of more visitors.
“Despite the signs of recovery, we are still not yet out of the woods,” he said.
The national chair for Domestic Tourism Association Mr. Livingstone Mghenyi says that the 2021 outlook is more promising than last year’s. He added that his association had started a county-to-county campaign to urge Kenyans to travel and visit other counties to promote tourism at a local level.
He added that Covid-19 pandemic was a wakeup call for hotels and other tourism establishments on the importance of investing in domestic tourists.
He further noted that with the lifting of curfew and travel restrictions in the country, Kenyans were free to travel for holidays.
“We are encouraging Kenyans to travel and sample what other counties have to offer. This is how to support tourism,” he said.
Mr. Mghenyi challenged the hotels, lodges and camps to have affordable and competitive rates for domestic tourists.
He added that tour operators were also willing to support Kenyans to travel and have fun during this festive season.
“There are those Kenyans who want to go to hotels, lodges and camps. If the facilities have affordable rates, they will be filled to capacity,” he predicted.
The chair also hailed Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) for opening up the national parks for local visitors at an affordable fee.
By Wagema Mwangi