Kenyan hotel owners blame polls for low bookings By MATHIAS RINGA | Wednesday, May 16 2012 at 11:46
Hotel owners in Kenya on Tuesday warned of job losses and low bookings due to the rising cost of fuel and uncertainty over the next elections.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) vice-chairman Vickram Korla said the sector might not reach the Sh98 billion mark recorded last year as tourists would keep away for fear of political violence as was the case in 2007.
“As hoteliers, we have invested a lot in promoting the industry in new markets. All our efforts may go to waste if tourists fail to show up due to travel bans, political tensions or high insurance premiums,” said Mr Korla, who is also a director at Sentido Neptune Hotels in the country's coastal city of Mombasa.
He spoke as the Kenya Association Tour Operators (Kato) said frequent fuel price increments were making the country an expensive destination for safari lovers.
Kato Coast branch chairperson Monika Solanki said major travel firms and tour operators in the West had already classified Kenya as “too expensive for wild safaris” compared to competitors such as South Africa and Botswana.
“Many of our clients are complaining about the ever rising costs of wild safaris in the wake of sky high fuel prices. When the prices of fuel go up it means tour firms must also review their charges to keep afloat. This means many tourists will not be able to visit the parks,” she said.
Ms Solanki warned this would push many small operators out of business resulting in job losses.
“Many tour firms will be forced to close down as it will be difficult for them to manage tours to popular wildlife spots such as the Maasai Mara. Tourists who come to the Coast will forego going on safaris and instead relax on the beaches as they will not be able to afford wild safari costs.”
The Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association chairman Mohammed Hersi said while it was too early to forecast December bookings, holding elections in December would deal operators a revenue blow.
“As much as tourism is Kenya’s second biggest foreign exchange earner, the government should know that beach holidays are not our preserve and tourists can always go elsewhere,” said Mr Hersi.
At the same time, Matatu Owners Association national vice-chairman Ali Bates welcomed the reduction of diesel prices by 36 cents.
“We are glad that the Energy Regulatory Commission has reduced the diesel prices by 36 cents as it will help bring down our operation costs. Most matatus use diesel and therefore the current prices are a relief to players in the industry,” he said.
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