Hotel business in Mt Kenya region falls silent

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020 00:00 |
The White Rhino, a three-star hotel in Nyeri town is among the many hotels which have closed temporary following the spread of corona-virus in Kenya. Others are Mt Kenya Safari Club and Treetops Hotel. Photo/PD/JOSEPH KING’ORI

Seth Mwaniki  @MwanikiM 

As coronavirus disease (Covid-19) continues to bite, hoteliers in Mount Kenya region have been forced to clear off cutlery from their dining tables and close their premises. 

Most of the establishments, both classified and non-classified, have closed gates while others are surviving on take-away services for food and drinks. 

Last week, White Rhino Hotel located in Nyeri town, a three-star facility, announced its indefinite closure to protect its guests, employees and stakeholders from Corona Virus outbreak.

The hotel’s management, through a letter signed by Operations Director Patrick Kairu, regretted the closure, adding that they may not tell the resumption date given that the problem at hand is global in nature.

The iconic Narumoru River Lodge in Laikipia county also closed its doors effective March 30 until further notice.

A notice undersigned by the lodge management said the move is as a result of safety measure to control spread of Covid-19 in their environment and areas of operation.

The lodge sits on the banks of Naro Moru River that flows from Lewis Glacier on Mount Kenya through Naro Moru town. 

Misty Mountain Lodge General Manager Dennis Mathenge paints a grim picture of the challenges his facility is going through.

The facility is partially closed, but has reduced staff to 20 per cent as a full capacity operation cannot be sustained.

Compared to quarter one of 2019, there is a more than 60 per cent drop in earnings and the situation is getting worse.

“Last year we had foreign guests from Britain, China and India, but not a single foreign guest has come this year,”  he said.

Le Pristine Hotel Director King’ori Wathobio also decries the pain of huge business loss though this has been inevitable.

“We have closed and sent our employees home until the situation improves,” King’ori said.

The situation in these hotels serve as a preface to the book of many chapters detailing the suffering and economic losses of over 110 classified hotels and hundreds of other small eatery joints in the region.

Mount Kenya Tourism Circuit Secretary Charles Karuga says coronavirus has dealt the region a big blow, leading to losses in tens of millions of shillings in the past three weeks.

“The losses will be unfathomable should the situation continue,” he regrets. 

Karuga says it is disturbing that over 3,000 employees depending on these hotels for survival face a high risk of losing their jobs.

“It is painful to render such a high number jobless because this crisis will lead to suffering of their dependants,” he says.

Other industry dependants such as food suppliers are suffering too. Collection of income and corporate taxes by the government will also decline, not to mention forgoing the two per cent tourism levy paid.

“It will be impossible to pay taxes without any income. We can only hope that the government understands what we are going through,” says Karuga.

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