Tourism stakeholders want the government to fully reopen the economy following the unprecedented crisis occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast branch executive officer Sam Ikwaye says full reopening of the tourism economy will ensure smooth and cost-effective return to normal life.
Dr. Ikwaye says the government should ensure that tour, travel and hospitality businesses are supported as the sector still faces a turbulent period due to the effects of the pandemic
He called for concerted efforts in rebuilding the tourism sector that has been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic which has potentially disrupted almost all aspects of life.
Dr. Ikwaye said lookdowns, curfews and cessations of movement had a profound impact on the hospitality industry which is a crucial sector of the country’s economy.
“The tourism-dependent economies of the coastal counties of Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, Taita Taveta and Lamu still feel the negative impacts of the crisis and will continue to struggle for a long time to come,” he said.
He went on, ‘we want the government to liaise with stakeholders and implement a road-map for the full reopening of the economy and continue to help businesses to re-open safely’.
He said in the past two years the Covid-19 pandemic hit global tourism activities and air travel very hard and that Kenya was no exception.
Addressing the press in Diani Saturday Dr. Ikwaye said the coastal counties and hotel managements should ensure that hotel employees are vaccinated against the coronavirus as the inoculation rate among them is still low.
“We want the counties to prioritize the vaccination of those working in the hotel industry in a bid to somewhat offset tourism losses,” he said, adding that hotels have set up vaccination centres where staff and guests have been receiving their jabs.
Moreover, the executive officer said that the industry is slowly picking up after the government lifted the ban on international flights paving the way for foreigners to visit the country.
“Since the government allowed both domestic and international flights in the country, we are happy that 40% of our foreign tourists are back. We hope the situation will get better,” he said.
On the MoH guidelines, the executive director said the industry has been at the forefront in ensuring that all players in the sector are observing the Covid-19 guidelines.
He said the MTALII COVID APP has played a crucial role in providing timely, credible, and verifiable information on Covid 19 to both local and foreign tourists.
He noted that the new technology has enhanced customer confidence in the safety of the county as a key global tourism destination.
The app was developed by Dr. Peter Oguto, a cardiac surgeon at The Aga Khan University Hospital Nairobi, and funded by the German government international corporation in August to help in sharing information about Covid 19.
Through the application, workers are required to update their employees on their Covid-19 status before they report to work and those with Covid-19 like symptoms will receive appropriate advice on their phones.
“Through this APP, we have been able to track employees with Covid-19 early enough before they could spread the virus to others and this has made us win the hearts of many foreign tourists, especially Germans,” Ikwaye said.
By Raymond Zaka and Hussein Abdullahi