Hospitality players in Kenya are calling on the government to offer them Covid-19 reliefs and allow them to reopen their establishments, saying they have put adequate Covid-19 preventative measures in place and are adhering to protocol requirements by the Ministry of Health.
They are also asking the government to allow them to defer taxes in part or completely, since there are no revenues currently due to pandemic restrictions. And seeing the spike in infections reported in the third wave, the recovery of the tourism and hospitality industry is a long way ahead.
In the last few weeks, the East African country has experienced a resurgence of Covid-19 infections and consequently reimposed stringent measures to curtail them. This includes the closure of hotels and restaurants.
“Hotels and restaurants have been closed indefinitely. It is painful seeing staff stay home jobless, yet they have families to support,” said Hasnain Noorani, Group Managing Director, Pride Inn, Kenya.
Last year, monetary and fiscal policies were implemented to safeguard people and livelihoods from the economic disruption of the pandemic. The government introduced tax cuts, suspended loan repayments, and withdrew fees on mobile transactions. But these reliefs were suspended this year.
“The government has been silent on measures to give businesses a respite from the looming crisis. We call on them 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,” Noorani said.
The covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the hospitality and tourism industry globally with the risk of affecting over 100 million jobs. As destinations around the world implement and uphold travel restrictions, every sector of the tourism industry including airlines, cruise lines, hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, and tour operators, have been significantly impacted.
In Africa, the pandemic hit the tourism industry particularly hard. Between January to October 2020, international tourist arrivals on the continent decreased by 69 percent. Countries like Kenya that are highly dependent on tourism-based foreign income, have experienced a drastic decline in tourism-based revenue. As of October 2020, Kenya’s tourism sector had lost close to a billion dollars.
The country’s tourism sector also accounts for 8.2 percent of its economy and provided 8.5 percent total employment in 2019, employing over two million people. Now, COVID-19 restrictions have rendered that demography, which includes SMEs and micro-firms (a large informal tourism sector), jobless.
Mohammed Hersi, Chairman, Kenya Tourism Federation, has said that the country’s tourism sector would likely recover fully by 2023 if the current containment measures remain in place for long. The same can be said of the industry globally. However, data by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) indicates that confidence in the industry’s recovery in Africa is strong, compared to other regions in the world.