Hotel finally relaxes all-inclusive policy

Tuesday September 15 2009

By MATHIAS RINGA

Difficult times call for different policies. At its height, the giant hotel chain, the African Safari Club, one had a guest’s boyfriend kicked out because he was a local.

 

Not even calls from the vocal local politicians could make it change its policies, until the economic crunch hit home.

 

Now, the  giant hotel chain, which for more than 40 years was a preserve of foreign tourists, has at long last opened its doors for locals.

 

African Safari Club (ASC) which owns 10 beach hotels at the Coast is even relaxing its all inclusive policy to allow Kenyans get bed and breakfast accommodation, lunch or dinner.

 

Tourism minister Najib Balala has on several occasions been urging hoteliers to allow locals to sample the tourist facilities.

 

Mr Balala said many Kenyans can afford to go on holidays and therefore must be left to access all hotels as domestic tourism has the capacity to cushion the industry during hard times.

 

ASC managing director Frank Neugebauer said the hotel group was now turning to domestic tourism to keep afloat after being hit by global economic meltdown coupled with post-election violence last year which brought tourism to its knees.

 

 Mr Neugebauer said ASC suffered a loss of Sh1 billion in 2003 after a huge fire gutted down four of its hotels at Shanzu in Mombasa in 2003.

 

The ASC boss, said: "For many years our hotels used to be packed with foreign holidaymakers since the industry was performing well. We had our own chartered plane which used to ferry tourists from Europe.

 

"But the global economic crisis coupled with the post-election violence which cost us massive  cancellation of bookings has left the hotel chain struggling.

 

"Beginning next month, we shall open our doors to locals so that they can sample our tourist facilities. We shall offer Kenyans affordable rates for accommodation and meals."

 

The hard times, he said, forced the hotel group to shut down six of its hotels last year, adding that only Dolphin, Flamingo, Vasco da Gama and Sea Horse hotels were operating.

 

He, however, said next month they would re-open Shanzu Beach Hotel and another one in November since bookings from Europe have started to trickle in.

 

"At the moment we have more than 600 foreign tourists in our hotels but the number continues to swell as bookings are on the increase in the wake of the forthcoming Winter," Mr Neugebauer said.

 

The hotel group has since early this year been hit by a string of workers' strike due to non-payment of salaries.

 

The ASC boss, however, said the hotel group was addressing its 700 employees' salary arrears to create a conducive working environment.

 

He noted that ASC has remitted more than Sh1 million to the Ministry of Labour for the payment of 48 former employees who were dismissed after holding an illegal strike and Sh5 million for its employees.

Over the years, Coast leaders had been lobbying for the hotel chain to allow locals enjoy the tourist facilities but to no avail.

 

Some years ago, ASC sparked an uproar after a foreign tourist's Kenyan boyfriend was kicked out of the hotel they had checked in since it was a foreigners' domain.

 

Small scale tourism businessmen were also opposed to the ASC all inclusive policy since it did not allow its guests to patronise other outlets or buy souvenirs elsewhere.