Reduce rates to woo tourists, CS Najib Balala tells hotels

Thursday December 31 2015

Tourism secretary Najib Balala. PHOTO | FILE

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has challenged hotels to slash their holiday rates to woo more tourists.

He said the high rates hotels are charging are partly to blame for the plummeting number of both local and international tourists.

“Other than help hotels attract more guests, reducing rates will boost ongoing efforts to revive the ailing tourism sector,” he said.

He added: “I would like to see the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) spearhead this initiative. We don’t want to make Kenya an expensive tourist destination.”

“There is no need for a hotel to charge $200 (Sh20,400) per night whereas it only has an occupancy of 20 per cent. Just the other day, a hotel in South Coast charged me $250 (Sh25,500) per night even though I am a local tourist, yet the guests were very few,” lamented Mr Balala.

The CS who spoke in Mombasa on Monday called on hotel owners to offer reasonable holiday packages to boost domestic tourism.

“It should be noted that it is the domestic market that has seen the sector to survive against low international tourist arrivals since last year,” said Mr Balala.

Early last year, western powers issued travel advisories against Kenya over rising insecurity occasioned by frequent terrorist attacks.

“The government has made efforts to revive the sector. For instance, the government has unveiled a Sh1.2 billion in incentives for chartered airlines to lower travel costs for tourists. The private sector should supplement such efforts,” he said.

The government has also allocated Sh5.2 billion to the tourism recovery programme with Sh2 billion being allocated to the Kenya Tourism Board for marketing.

He said he will also ask the Kenya Wildlife Service to reduce entry fees to the parks and game reserves as well.

KAHC Coast executive officer Sam Ikwaye said most hotels have been offering special holiday rates since last year to locals following the tourism slump.

He said hotels have for the last two years been struggling to pay workers as international tourists kept off.

“We also face challenges of high power and water bills as well as levies charged by the governments,” he said.