Inside Politics

Corona pushes tourism sector to worst dip in 5 years – report

Monday, September 13th, 2021 00:00 |
Covid-19 vaccination.

Total earnings in the tourism sector decreased by 43.9 per cent in 2020 posting only Sh91.7 billion in what is the sector’s worst performance in the last five years as Covid-19 pandemic brought global travel to a standstill.

Containment measures by governments across the world to curb the spread of the virus which limited visitors into the country is squarely to blame for this sorry state, according to the just released Economic Survey 2021.

Governments suspended international passenger flights between March and July and introduced a number of restrictions on movements, social gatherings to contain the spread of the virus.

“As a result, international visitor arrivals decreased by 71.5 per cent to stand at 579,600 in 2020,” the report launched by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani said.

At Sh91.7 billion, the sector had registered its worst earnings only second to 2016 when it posted Sh99.7 billion, the report adds.

During the period under review, hotel bed-nights occupancy rate contracted by 58 per cent to 3.8 million.

The number of international and local conferences held declined by 87.0 per cent and 75.2 per cent to 28,000 and 1.18 million respectively, in 2020. Visitors to national parks and game reserves declined by 65.1 per cent to 1 million in 2020.

Similarly, the number of visitors to museums, snake parks and historical sites declined by 83.8 per cent from 990,200 in 2019 to 160,700 in 2020.

Number of trainees

The number of trainees pursuing hospitality and tourism courses at the Kenya Utalii College declined by 76.4 per cent from 3,086 in 2019 to 729 in 2020 following  the closure of learning institutions by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Tourism players on their part have acknowledged that 2020 was a terrible year for the sector due to the pandemic, but they were optimistic that with heightened Covid-19 vaccination campaign, there is hope for turnaround in the sector.

“It is true that Covid-19 just stopped travelling around the world. But now that vaccination is happening and the frontline workers in tourism have taken the jab, it’s definitely going to help us.

We are telling the world that look here; it is safe to visit Kenya,” said Tourism expert and former chair of Kenya Tourism Federation Mohammed Hersi.

“A lot of our visitors are actually asking to be allocated drivers who have been vaccinated and we are already doing it,” he added. Hersi, however, said even with the decline, the sector is “not badly off.” 

“We must commend our government; I think they have done well although they could have done better.

The thing is we can’t complain too much because it is not only Kenya that has been affected, it is the whole world. In fact there are countries that have done worse,” he noted.

Kenya Coast Tourism Association (KCTA) CEO) Julius Owino said even though he is yet to see the report, the sector has been the worst hit by the pandemic, especially going by available figures.

At the same the KCTA boss said it regrettable that the news is coming just before an electioneering period, meaning that “we can only talk of recovery post 2022 that is 2023.”

“If you look at the numbers that we had pre-Covid-19, it will only tell you that it has been worse for us in the industry… with 40,000 bed occupancy in the Coast region, you will find that we have barely done 10,000,” he said. 

Had job losses

“We have had job losses, unpaid leaves, there are people on pay cuts up to now, we don’t have those charters that used to come and with the elections coming even though we want to be optimistic, the earliest we can start recovery is maybe post-2022,” Owino said.

Besides vaccination, he said it is imperative for the government to come up with experiences and products that support the domestic market.

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