Travel restrictions

Coast hoteliers show optimism after UK lifts travel restrictions

Tourism stakeholders on the south coast hailed the UK’s decision to remove Kenya from the Red List which restricted travel for citizens of both countries.

The Diani Hospitality Owners Association has said the decision to remove Kenya from the list is a momentum towards recovery for the tourism sector which is on its deathbed due to COVID-19.

In April, Kenya was included in the UK’s red list among countries considered risky for having high cases of Covid-19 or poor surveillance of cases to prevent infection.

Other countries removed from the Red List include Egypt, Maldives, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

“We had been eagerly awaiting the news of Kenya’s removal from the UK’s Red List. This has been a huge blessing for the tourism fraternity, which over the years has relied heavily on the UK as a key source market, ”said Bobby Kamani, Vice President of the Diani Hospitality Owners Association.

Bobby Kamani, who is also General Manager of Diani Beach Reef Resort and Vice President of the Diani Hospitality Owners Association, speaking to media in Diani South Coast Kwale County. PHOTO | Haniel Mengistu

According to data from Kenya’s National Bureau of Statistics, the number of overnight stays among UK visitors fell from 341,300,000 in 2019 to just 81,100 in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Kamani, Kenya’s removal from the UK’s red list, coupled with the announcement by KLM Royal Dutch Airline to start direct flights to Mombasa, is the biggest news for the hotel industry on the Kenyan coast.

KLM, the national airline of the Netherlands, is set to launch two weekly direct flights between Amsterdam and Mombasa starting October 31 this year.

“We are now optimistic that in the last quarter of 2021 we will have some good business after the two announcements,” Kamani said.

Over the past five months, the tourism industry on the coast has been heavily dependent on the Eastern European market, regional tourists, local travelers and conferences to stay afloat.

The veteran hotelier said the removal of Kenya from the UK’s travel list is a big relief for UK tourists who might need to embark on an overseas holiday destination.

“Britain has been our traditional and important source market for decades and the travel ban has undoubtedly affected our businesses,” he said.

However, there are still restrictions on the number of people who must attend a conference at a hotel.

At Diani Reef Beach Resort, all 220 employees have been vaccinated against Covid-19, said Kamani, who is also the facility’s general manager.

Having all our staff vaccinated gives our customers more confidence. They are sure to be served by staff who are safe, ”he said.

He said that to ensure the hospitality industry continues to grow, hospitality players on the coast must make sure to follow all government protocols on Covid-19.

He said the time has come for hospitality players to work together and strategize to ensure a successful period over the next 15 months.

“We remain positive for 2022. Although this is an election year, we are seeing robust growth for businesses if all other factors remain constant,” he said.

Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa was voted Africa’s best beach resort, with idyllic Diani Beach being recognized for seven consecutive years as Africa’s best beach destination.

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