The tourism industry has witnessed the worst disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since March when the pandemic took a turn for the worse across the globe, all international travels were cancelled, grounding airlines and the entire aviation industry.
Hotels and entertainment facilities were closed. The net result was total collapse of the sector. The industry suffered double jeopardy, both from the supply and the demand sides.
Kenya’s main tourist sources are the Americas and Europe. These are the nations and regions severely ravaged by the plague. Internally, the containment measures that included closure of hotels and restaurants, cessation of movement across some counties such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi, which are premier tourist destinations, served as the final nail on the coffin.
Tourism is one the top foreign income earners for Kenya. It employs thousands of people directly and indirectly. Kenya’s Coast is sustained by tourism.
With the closure of hotels and beaches, the region’s economy is completely truncated. Then there are the national parks and other scenic attractions across the country that have all but been severely wounded.
Recently, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics conducted an impact assessment on the coronavirus pandemic and gave depressing findings.
The Survey on "Socio Economic Impact of Covid-19 on Households Report" ranked the hospitality sector as the second worst affected, after education.
Just this past week, Norfolk, one of the iconic and legendary top star hotels in Kenya, closed shop, bringing to a tragic end decades of superior hospitality experience.
Several hotels and tour operators have closed business and sent employees on compulsory unpaid leave.
Given this background, we take note of the move by Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala to appoint a task force to advise the government on recovery strategies for the sector.
A week ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a Sh53.7 billion stimulus package to revamp the economy. Included in this package was Sh2 billion for the renovation of hospitality facilities and another Sh1 billion for conservancies.
The urgency to revamp tourism is incontestable. The sector must be reset, given its vulnerability to pestilences.
While all along the country’s tourism has thrived on foreign visitors, henceforth a shift has to be made to locals. More than ever before, the government must promote local tourism.