The number of tourists visiting the Coast fell by 22 per cent in the first eight months this year compared to last year. The slump has been blamed on a spate of violent crime, chaos in Mombasa in August, Tana clashes and the Al-Shabaab threat.
December is normally the climax of the high tourist season, but the Nation has established that hotel bed occupancy across the region is between 30 and 60 per cent compared to 80 and 100 in the same period last year.
Holidaymakers who visited Mombasa dropped to 121,472, between January and August this year compared to 156,521 in the same period last year.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast branch vice-chairman Vikram Korla said South Coast currently has an average bed occupancy of 50 to 60 per cent, compared to 80-100 per cent last year.
“At this time last year most hotels at the Coast were packed with local and international tourists but due to insecurity tourist arrivals have gone down,” he said, but the hotels are expected to have bed occupancy of between 90-100 per cent over Christmas and New Year holidays, he added.
“Hotels in the South Coast are going to be busy during the festive season as we are getting good bookings from domestic and international markets,” Mr Korla said.
He expressed hope that full recovery might be experienced between July and August 2013 subject to peaceful elections.
Lamu Tourist Association chairman Lars Korschen said hotels there had bed occupancy of between 30 and 50 per cent, compared to 70 and 90 per cent last year. He, however, said that bookings for the festive season had shot up, adding that most hotels would be full from Christmas Eve to January 2.
The hotelier credited last month’s Lamu Cultural Festival and aggressive marketing campaigns by the tourism board for the increase in bookings.
“For the better part of the year, tourism in Lamu had been performing poorly due to insecurity,” he said.
“But following security improvement across the Coast, tourist bookings have significantly improved and we expect packed hotels over Christmas and New Year,” he said.
In the North Coast, Travellers Beach Hotel marketing manager Carolyne Kurumei said the hotel is expected to be full during the festive season.
The hotel had an average bed occupancy of 60 per cent with 40 per cent local and 20 per cent international visitors, she said.
“We expect the year to end on a high note as bookings for the festive season are on the increase compared to August when only a few arrived on holiday,” she said, adding: “Security has generally improved in Mombasa compared to the last four months and this has built confidence in tourists.”
Lake Nakuru Lodge director Joseph Muya also said he expects a full house during Christmas and the New Year festivities. Currently, he said, the lodge had a bed occupancy of 40 per cent, but that it will be packed from December 24 to January 2.
“We hope the General Election will be conducted peacefully so that tourism and our country’s economy improve,” he said.
Serena Sweet Waters Tented Camp general manager James Odenyo said the camp in Nanyuki is fully booked from December 23 to January 2.
“Currently we have a bed occupancy of 55 per cent but from December 23 to New Year, our camp will be bursting at the seams with guests,” he said.
“Apart from the festive season, locals and international tourists are coming to watch the wildlife including the big five: lions, elephants, rhinos, buffaloes and leopards,” he said.
Set to be packed
Ashnil Hotels sales and marketing manager Paul Kurgat said its lodges in the Maasai Mara, Tsavo East National Park and Samburu are expected to be full during the festive season.
Mr Kurgat said the Ashnil Mara Camp, the Ashnil Samburu Camp and the Aruba Lodge in Tsavo, which currently have average bed occupancy of 50 per cent, are set to be packed during Christmas and New Year.