, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 20 – At least 20 hotels have closed down in the coastal region since May this year following issuance of several travel advisories that have seen a reduction in the number of tourist arrivals.
According to the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC), 15 hotels have closed shop in Malindi with seven left operating while in Diani, five hotels have closed down, leaving 13 in business.
Speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday, the association’s CEO Mike Macharia called on the government through the Foreign Affairs Ministry to address the issue of travel advisories by holding continued talks with some of the western countries which still have advisories against Kenya.
“In our opinion, the government has not done enough to address the issue of travel advisories. When we evaluate the statements that are coming from government, we realise that there is little or no engagement with our foreign partners,” Macharia protested.
He says the country is likely to lose an estimated Sh40 billion in terms of revenues from the tourism sector but called for more evaluation of the losses.
“At around May, we were told that some charters had been suspended up to October this year. But since then the charters have cancelled now till the next winter season which will be in November 2015. So, obviously the impact will be much higher,” Macharia said, “Just last week we got another two airlines that pulled out a Dutch charter company and a German one.”
They also want the state to release the Sh200 million which was set aside for the Tourism Recovery Strategy Committee which Macharia says has delayed the team from starting its work.
At the moment, which should be a high season from July to September, the hotels in operations are at 25 percent occupancy compared to the usual 70 percent.
“There will be no high season, why lie. It’s as simple as that. I mean, August is normally supposed to be a high season but we are running at one third,” Coast Region Chairman for KAHC Harald Kampa regretted.
He says another big challenge is negative media publicity by some of the renowned media global firms which have continued create an exaggerated negative perception about Kenya.
“Today in the travel agencies out there, you are told, don’t go to Kenya. It’s dangerous. We recently did a mail to our regular visitors… about 2,000 of them and only 50 responded. This tells you that even the repeaters who know our country very well are now being brain washed,” Kampa said adding that the media has to a large extent contributed to most visitors not visiting Kenya.
Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions Hospitals and Allied (KUDHEIHA) Workers Secretary General Albert Obed said close to 2,000 people have lost jobs including hotels’ service providers.
“We are calling on the government to hold a forum of all stakeholders and look for immediate measures and policies” Obed urged.
The players are also pushing the government to remove VAT on tourism services for about 18 months to support efforts of revamping the sector adding that Tanzania and Zimbabwe are in the process of revising the same.
They also want the country to adopt an Open Sky Policy that allows certain airlines to fly directly to tourism destinations such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi and Kisumu directly from different countries.