Stakeholders in the hospitality industry have been urged to focus on domestic tourism to ride over the drastic drop by foreign tourists in the face of the novel coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic.
The Tourism Principal Secretary (PS), Safina Kwekwe said as a result of the global covid-19 crisis the industry is going through ‘difficult and unprecedented times.’
She said the tourism sector has suffered the most because of restricted movements and the ban on international flights but added there are plans by the government to provide soft loans to hotels through the Tourism Finance Corporation.
She said the national government has set aside Sh.2 billion to support renovation of tourist hotels and the restructuring of business operations by actors in the industry.
“We expect actors in the industry to seize such opportunities championed by the national government to accelerate the transformation to the tourism of the future” she said.
Tourism is among the country’s leading foreign exchange earners with thousands of Kenyans depending largely on the sector for their livelihoods.
Speaking in Kwale County on Tuesday during a tree planting exercise in commemoration of the Africa Public Service Week, the PS said the coronavirus outbreak has triggered global anxiety in the travel and tourism sector.
She said players in the sector should now focus on domestic tourists as the coronavirus restrictions on foreigners coming into the country imposed to curb the spread of the disease is likely to stay for the foreseeable future.
She said the ban on international flights has delivered a big hit to the tourism industry that has been the lifeblood of the local economies of the coastal counties of Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Lamu.
The tourism PS said many beach hotels in the region have closed down indefinitely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic leading to employees to lose their jobs.
She said now that the covid-19 pandemic has brought foreign travel to stand still it should serve as a ‘wakeup call’ to the industry players that they should not ‘just focus on foreign tourists alone.’
Ms. Kwekwe said industry players should bank on domestic tourists by offering them value-for-money services and other new ideas to lure local guests post-covid-19 lockdowns.
She said the government does not expect the tourist sector to be fully back in business until December 2021 and said players in the hospitality sector had to think outside the box in the coronavirus era.
She said over the longer term period the coronavirus crisis should be grabbed as an opportunity for a ‘fresh start’ to have sustainable growth in the future.
The PS was accompanied by Tourism Secretary of Administration, David Jakaiti, the Ministry’s Human Resource Director, John Macharia, Kwale County Commissioner (CC), Karuku Ngumo and the county ecosystems conservator George Wara.
By Hussein Abdullahi