Hundreds of workers in the hospitality industry in Kenya’s Western tourism circuit have been sent home after hotels in Nyanza and Western regions started shutting down their operations this week due to adverse effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kamel Park in Kisii, the biggest hotel in South Nyanza region, was among the first ones to suspend all operations, followed on Wednesday by the Grand Royal Swiss Hotel, one of Kisumu’s prime hotels, as well as ACK Guesthouse managed by the Anglican Church of Kenya in Homa Bay County.
Another big player in Kisumu County, Sovereign Hotel, closed down earlier in the week on Monday.
More hotels are expected to shut down as a majority have already, drastically scaled down operations, many of them sending staff on compulsory unpaid leaves as they struggle to cope.
In Siaya County, Distinction Hotel, Siaya County Club, Camunya in Ugunja, Savannah, Chez Mbago, Switel in Bondo, Pride Kings also in Bondo are some of the hardest hit, having been forced to downsize their workforce.
In Kisii County, Kamel Park hotel proprietor Mr Harun Kamau said they received their last group of visitors on Sunday.
"We have a total of 48 staff and we sent some on leave with half pay. They will resume when things normalise," he said.
At Ufanisi, also in Kisii, services have been scaled down and there is no eating at the hotel's restaurant. Staff have also been reduced from 92 to 45.
According to Western Kenya Hospitality Leaders Association Chairman Robinson Anyal, over 90 per cent of hotels are not in operation and expressed fear that some more could totally shut in the coming days.
“We have a few clients doing takeaway with about 10 to 20 per cent workers in the security and cleaners reporting,” said Mr Anyal, the Parkview Hotel manager said.
In Vihiga, at Sosa Hotel on the outskirts of Mbale town, half of the employees have been send home on compulsory unpaid leave.
The situation is the same at Hemara hotel located at Chavakali township.
Already 12 have been sent on unpaid leave, with the manager Mr Henry Asava revealing that the three conference halls and 40 rooms could be headed to a shutdown.
At the same time, Sunshine Hotel Kericho manager Frank Kirui said the facility was forced to cancel all meetings since the government banned public gatherings.
"It is a matter of wait and see. But we are hopeful things will be well," said Mr Kirui.
Best Western Hotel Manager Leopold King said the supply chain within the industry has seriously been affected.
Reporting by Caroline Wafula, Ruth Mbula, Benson Amadala, Dickens Wasonga, Derick Luvega, George Odiwuor, Elizabeth Ojina, and Victor Raballa