The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged tourism at the Coast with majority of investors now counting mounting losses.
With the situation getting dimmer by the day, some investors are now contemplating selling their beach hotels.
The beaches along the world famous tourist destinations in Kwale, Lamu, Kilifi and Mombasa counties once flooded with both local and international tourists are eerily quiet, depicting how the sector has been hit hard by the pandemic.
This is a huge blow to the coastal economy. Tourism is the region’s economic lifeline directly employing over 8000 workers, but currently only half of the workforce has been rehired working on 50 percent salary due to the economic downturn.
Malindi in Kilifi County which is regarded as Kenya’s ‘little Italy’, due to its fair share of Italian tourists and investors, is the worst hit resort as most hotels are yet to reopen leaving over 2000 workers jobless.
Malindi depends on international tourism market, and the hotels closed down in March when Covid-19 pandemic outbreak pulled the plug on international travel.
The woes worsened in May, when the Italian government repatriated its 500 citizens from Malindi as the pandemic wreaked havoc, leaving hotels in the leisure town empty.
Yet to reopen
But to date, most hotels are yet to reopen after Covid-19 even after the government cushioned the industry with Sh10 billion affordable credit scheme.
The North Coast region Kenya Hotel Keepers and Caterers Association (KHCA) chairperson Maureen Awuor painted a gloomy picture, saying the situation is bound to get worse with the proposed lockdown by the Council of Governors to curb the virus during the festivities.
Ms Awuor, who is the Ocean Beach resort general manager, said many hotels in Malindi that were eyeing to cash in on the festivities have resorted to remain shut.
“In fact, some have not reopened completely such as Kilili Baharini. Some are saying they will remain shut up to January. But these are hotels that 70 percent dependent on international tourists. Tropical Village has only managed to open its two hotels, the third one is still shut,” she noted.
“Karibuni villas are empty, Kola beach are managing but they are not for certain for Christmas. Jacaranda, Crystal Bay, Eden Viaggi beach resorts are still shut. These are hotels who work with a travel agency in Italy.”
Renovating their premises
However, she said, some have embarked on renovating their premises with hope of reopening next season which will be in 2021.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala termed 2020 as the most difficult year saying “tourism is on its knees.”
The December holidays, which are usually the boom period for hotels, are offering little cheer. The Coast facilities have recorded low bookings ahead of the festivities, a situation attributed to fears over the possibility of restriction of movements during the period.
Currently, most beach hotels at the Coast are operating between 40 to 55 percent on local tourism, and two percent on international counterparts.
Compared to last year the hotels operated above 80 percent local tourism and 25 percent international circuit with industry players terming it the worst Christmas and New Year.
The latest statistics from the Tourism Research Institute shows a massive drop of tourist’s arrivals in Kenya due to the pandemic.
Some 470, 971 tourists visited Kenya from January to October compared to 1.7 million in 2019. However, international tourism has declined by 72 per cent for the same period
Some investors, she added are waiting for people to buy their hotels due to the high cost of operation and economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
“It is bad. If you cannot operate for a full year it means you cannot recover. The tax holiday we were enjoying has been taken back because January we are reverting to old system of taxing. Things are not working so well,” Ms Awuor said.
“Internet will be 16 per cent VAT and 15 excise duty which is very expensive yet we cannot operate without internet, cost of power has also gone up. Operational expenditure is high,” she decried.”
She said most hotels workers have been working on rotation due to lack of business.
“You work for two weeks, stay at home for another two weeks. Salary is now 50 per cent, things are really bad but we are worried if the governors lock the counties we will incur more losses,” she said.
Recently, Governor Hassan Joho directed his administration to devise ways and means of reviving the economy of Mombasa.