NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 15-Eighty-nine percent of hotels in Kenya had resumed operation by September, reflecting the continued easing of COVID-19 restrictions and increased compliance with the health protocols, new data shows.
According to the Central Bank of Kenya Market Perception Survey conducted between September 21 and 23, the industry was recovering from the harsh economic environment occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic where only 35 percent of the hotels were operating in May.
As a result, the average bed occupancy improved to 24 percent of the total bed capacity in September from its lowest levels of 10 percent in May, largely reflecting the lifting of travel restrictions in and out of Nairobi and Mombasa, and resumption of international flights.
However, employment in the sector still remains a concern, with hotel respondents in the latest study indicating that they expect to maintain fewer employees to cut labour costs due to low business volumes, indicating that most staff members remained on unpaid leave, while other sectors remained cautious about rehiring, preferring to maintain their numbers as they gauge the impact of the current economic situation.
The hospitality sector has been one of the hard hit by the pandemic where the respondents attributed the decline in employment between March and May to hotel closures during the period due to low business activity following the implementation of COVID-19 movement restrictions and containment measures.
“Nonetheless, a majority of the hotels indicated that the reduced employees mainly reflected furloughs and postponement of employment contract renewals,” reads CBK report.
At the same time, the study projected that 58 percent of hotels expect to resume normal levels of operations by end of 2021.
“This comprised 21 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 and 37 percent in 2021,” CBK added.
Nairobi hotels mainly cited the expected increase in conference activities following the resumption of international flights and easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
However, a few hotels indicated that the main impediment to their resumption of normal operations was high costs of compliance with the required health protocols amid low business revenues.
Consequently, an average of 42 percent of hotels, 36 percent in Nairobi and 48 percent in the rest of the country were uncertain on when they expect to attain normal operations, citing dependence on how the pandemic evolves.