Kenya’s coastal tourism started slowly according to the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caters and the Kenyan Tourist Board. Tourism along the at the Kenyan coast drives the region’s economy and is facing difficult times following low tourists numbers visiting the region this season. In Mombasa, where many hotels depend on conferences some hotels have opted to provide affordable facilities and rates to promote local tourism and give international tourists value for their money.
Famous for its white sandy beaches, luxurious hotels and holiday destinations, hotels in the region are facing a crisis despite this being a high season month but the sector is facing a slump already ahead of the low season. The region has an estimated 90 major tourist hotels of international standards which have all recorded a bed occupancy of between 30 to 50% as opposed to the usual 70 – 80 % during high seasons.
The low tourist numbers have also affected visitors to Tsavo National Park, Shimba Hills national reserve and the various Kenya Wildlife managed marine parks in the Indian Ocean. The sharp decline in international tourist arrivals and low domestic tourists activities has seen a number of hotels facing difficulties.
One spokesperson said, “We are doing mitigation measures to survive. Hotels will be forced to reduce their workforce and remain with skeleton staff . Others will be forced to take unpaid leave as hotels try to cut on expenses.” The move will see over 2,000 employees laid off from about forty hotels in the North coast and thirty in the Kenyan south coast.
Last year’s closure for renovations of Jacaranda hotels’ Indian Ocean Diani beach hotel, the shut down of a number of others including three hotels belonging to Alliance hotel group add to the local employment concerns. Boat operators, curio shop operators, Taxis, tour operators and others who benefit from the tourism sector have also been affected.
Concerns sited are rising insecurity, poor infrastructure, tidiness and harassment of tourists by beach operators. Despite peaceful elections, tourists have avoided the country due to travel advisories over fears of a recap of post election violence. An increase in air tickets costs from Europe to Kenya, and a drop in the number of charter flights from the traditional markets of UK, Germany, Italy and France to less than 10 per week, compared to 20 a week in previous times.
Businesses were looking at strategies to create a good environment to attract tourists in their areas with increased police patrols, improvement of infrastructure and local clean-up programs. A local tourism representative said, “We are going through turbulence but it will be through with time. Change is in progress. Tourism accounts for 60% of the Coast region’s dependence and we cannot afford to let it go”.