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Tourism loses Sh80bn as virus hits sector, report reveals

Monday June 29 2020
BALALA

Wildlife and Tourism CS Najib Balala addresses Isiolo residents at KWS Rapid Response Unit in Game, Burat ward last week. PHOTO | WAWERU WAIRIMU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By STEVE OTIENO

The tourism industry has lost up to Sh80 billion since the outbreak of Covid-19, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has said.

He said this during the launch of the National Tourism Crisis Report yesterday at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, where it emerged that up to 120 million tourism jobs are at risk globally after international flights were banned.

In Kenya, about 1.6 million jobs are at risk with the industry having lost about 60-80 per cent of sales owing to Covid-19.

Whereas bed-nights recorded by domestic tourists in 2018 stood at 4.6 million and international tourists at 4 million, the industry is recording almost zero tourist visits currently. Arrivals to the country stood at 2.02 million in 2018 but saw a growth by 3.9 percent to 2.05 million in 2019.

TOURIST ARRIVALS

In 2020, 136,389 tourist arrivals were recorded in January and about 163,000 in February. In March, the first Covid-19 case was recorded leading to cancellation of international flights thus cutting off arrivals for more tourists.

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The report was commissioned by Tourism and Wildlife Chief Administrative Secretary Joseph Boinnet in March 2020 after the National Tourism Crisis Steering Committee was tasked with the duty of investigating ways of restoring normality in the sector.

 According to the report, the country gains an annual average income of around Sh170 billion from the industry. Should the bleak situation persist, however, Mr Balala projected that the industry will generate only 30 percent of what was earned in 2019.

 Dr Esther Munyiri, a senior lecturer at Kenyatta University’s Department of Tourism Management, said that despite the shocks brought by the coronavirus pandemic, Kenya would emerge stronger as it has done previously during terrorism attacks that scared tourists from visiting the country.

“Kenya has a robust record that it is currently being used as a case study internationally on how crisis can be handled to counter shocks in the tourism sector,” Dr Munyiri said.

Should international flights be allowed and the country open up to foreign tourists by July, the arrivals will be affected by 50 percent and a total of 861,000 arrivals will be recorded.

DECLARED REDUNDANT

However, should it be opened up in September, 615,000 will be expected and only about 451,000 arrivals will be registered should the industry be opened up in December.

“Many of the employees have been declared redundant and lost their jobs, some have been sent on unpaid leave with temporary workers being laid off. Pay cuts have also been registered. The industry has also lost massive revenue, many business owners are struggling with paying rents and utilities with massive cancellations and zero booking for fresh ones,” part of the report reads.

The government has set aside Sh500 million to cushion the tourism sector. This will be used to restore destination confidence that will ensure Kenya remains a preferred destination globally and also as a post-recovery strategy in one of the country’s most vibrant sectors.

About Sh4 billion has also been set aside to refurbish and renovate hotels. Sh1 billion has been allocated to cater for the salaries of rangers. Another Sh1 billion has been set aside for marketing the tourism sector.

Players in the industry were urged to focus on domestic tourism especially because 37 percent of people employed in Kenya are in the middle-class.

Countries that earn a lot of income from local tourism such as China, the United States of America, Germany, India, France, Mexico and Brazil have done so by making their products accessible to their citizens, Mr Balala noted.

He urged hotel owners and other players in the sector to come up with prices that will be affordable to a majority of Kenyans in a bid to promote domestic tourism.  

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