Balala hints at reopening of hospitality industry in July

Thursday, June 18th, 2020 00:00 |
Tourism CS Najib Balala releases a fully recovered green turtle to the sea in Watamu during the world Sea Turtles Day, on Tuesday. Photo/PD/BONFACE Msangi

Monica Kagia

Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has hinted that the hospitality sector could open next month after adoption of the globally recommended World Tourism and Travel Council Covid-19 mitigation protocols.

Balala said the sector has suffered from the pandemic with over 90 per cent of its earnings having been lost since March.

He said the sector generates Sh170  billion annual revenue to the government which has all been lost, adding that plans are in top gear for reopening of the industry.

“We are working with the World Tourism and Travel Council to get the stamp or certification that our protocols are compliant internationally,’’ he said.

Balala was speaking in Watamu, Kilifi county, after releasing a fully recovered sea turtle during the World Sea Turtle day.

He also  and toured the Watamu Marine Association plastic recycling centre and the Bio Ken Snake farm in the resort town.

The CS said job losses in the industry were overwhelming but expressed optimism that the situation would return to normal soon.

“The country’s GDP depends on tourism which was hard hit by Covid-19 but also globally we have lost over 120 million jobs from this pandemic and over 400 billion dollars in terms of revenue,’’ he said.

Globally, Balala said 90 per cent of international travel has been halted due to the virus.

However, he said the domestic market could recover before international travel following the restrictions imposed in some countries.

“I am optimistic that in one year, we can work hard in the domestic market but the stakeholders in the tourism industry must appreciate that the domestic market has a different taste and they are sensitive to prices,’’ he said.

Change mindset

Balala insisted that hotels must do more to attract local tourists, adding that the pandemic has evidently shown that tourism is not about travel but everyone in the value chain including farmers, snake parks and all other businesses that depend on the sector for survival.

“It is a lesson to open up to the domestic market, we need to change our mindset. We need to appreciate the domestic market is valuable, it has been valuable even before,’’ he said.

He added: “Kenya is lucky to have a strong domestic market as other countries have only been relying on the international market and now they are suffering because it will take time for renowned destinations in Kenya and Africa to open up to the international market.”

He said South Africa has announced opening of international travel in 2021 while parts of Europe are saying they will not allow their citizens to travel out of Europe until 2021.

“So these are the challenges that we will have and realistically speaking the aviation industry needs to start operating so that the tourism industry is successful,’’ he said.

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