Local hospitality industry players have called on the government to consider allowing hotels and restaurants reopen with immediate effect closed over COVID-19 prevention measures.

The industry players argued that strategies put in place to flatten the COVID-19 curve such as lockdowns and closure of restaurants and hotel establishments are punitive and have significantly affected livelihoods of over two million hotel and travel industry workers, rendering them jobless.

“Hotels and restaurants have been closed indefinitely. It is painful seeing staff stay home jobless yet they have families to support. It’s a pity that hotels and tourism industry players in Kenya are not given the ears required. Simple solutions were very possible to enable business to go on, but we were all ignored,” said Hasnain Noorani, PrideInn Group Managing Director.

In 2020, when President Uhuru Kenyatta first announced measures to prevent the virus from spreading, the monetary and fiscal authorities followed up with a number of measures to safeguard businesses and individuals from the ensuing economic hit.

“The government has been silent on measures to give businesses a respite from the looming crisis. We call upon the government to give us a chance to defer taxes, or part of the taxes, since we are back to the mass closures that put us on our knees since last year,” added Hasnain

Such measures will go a long way in saving these businesses from total ruin, and in the process save hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Tourism contributed approximately 10 percent of Kenya’s annual GDP, employing over two million people. It was this segment that got decimated with onset and continuous grip of Covid-19.

The tourist inflow changed. With lockdowns across the globe, flight and travel restrictions, Kenyan tourism ground to a halt for most part of last year and started making tentative recovery in the last quarter of 2020.

While new restrictions were imposed, hoteliers accuse the government of camouflaging the real magnitude of the pandemic on travel and hospitality business.

“We saw the introduction of suspensions on loan repayments, tax cuts, removal of fees on mobile transactions and the announcement of a stimulus package meant to create jobs. This time around, the authorities have been silent on measures, if any are intended, to give businesses a respite from the looming crisis,” said Farzana Zahir, Sales and Marketing Director at PrideInn Group

The hospitality industry now faces the task of restoring consumer confidence and adapting offerings to ensure guests’ experiences are not only hospitable but hygienic and safe as well.

“Trust and innovation is the new currency when it comes to hospitality, so upholding the globally benchmarked health and safety protocols for the safety and protection of everyone is what we have done in our hotels.  This is to increase people’s propensity to travel and re-instill their confidence in travelling,” added Mrs Farzana.