Investors in Nakuru County have been urged to take advantage of Kenya’s improved trade relations with her regional neighbours to tap into huge under-exploited opportunities in the hospitality and tourism sectors.
Addressing a press conference in his office, Nakuru Hoteliers and Caterers Association (NHCA) Chairman Benson Mwangi Wangai said renewed bilateral relations between Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda had the capacity to increase Kenyans’ investments in the hospitality and tourism sectors in the East African Community Market.
Wangai, a former Nakuru mayor, singled out recent commitment by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Tanzanian Counterpart Samia Suluhu Hassan to improve communication and transport between the two countries by air, rail, sea, and road saying it had the potential of increasing volumes of regional tourists visiting Kenya.
While in Kenya early May, President Hassan and her host President Kenyatta held bilateral talks focusing on among others trade, integration and economic opportunities within the two countries. They also held consultations at a business forum for Tanzanian and Kenyan business community. President Hassan later attended a session with executive women in business.
Her visit came at a time Kenya and Tanzania had engaged in various spats for some time over work visa, taxes and market access rights for items such as sugar, milk and dairy products.
On the other hand, Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye jetted into the country on Monday, May 31 to attend Tuesday’s Madaraka Day celebrations as the chief guest at the lakeside city of Kisumu. Ndayishimiye’s visit aimed at increasing trade and investments between Kenya and his Country.
Mr Wangai noted that with enhanced bilateral ties Kenya tour companies, hotels and caterers will be permitted to set up shop in the regional countries due to removal of trade barriers and other bottlenecks.
The NHCA Chairman noted that the renewed regional collaboration will guarantee continued market access for Kenya’s tourism and hospitality industry players, against the background of frequent lockdowns due to Covid-19 pandemic.
The former civic leader petitioned President Uhuru to ease Covid-19 containment measures slapped on bars and restaurants in support of livelihoods and prevent losses the industry has been incurring due to restrictions on operations.
He stated that he had reduced workforce at his establishment in Nakuru from 26 to six workers due to slowed down business opportunities occasioned by the pandemic’s economic aftershocks. He recalled that immediately restrictions to contain the virus were announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta in March 2020, he had to put most of his staff on unpaid leave while the lucky few retained had to contend with half pay.
Wangai stated it was not only his staff that got a rude shock but also the whole chain such as farmers, and several suppliers who depend on the hotel industry to make money. “Most Kenyans have now learnt to live with Covid-19 prevention protocols. Since the disease will not go away soon NHCA has developed self-regulating mechanisms as part of our civic responsibility to our clientele, in order to allow our resumption,” Mwangi concluded.
By Jane Ngugi and Dennis Rasto