Domestic tourism lifts sector as hotel forward bookings surge

Hotels have registered improvement in advance bookings with the onset tourism high season signaling slow return to business amid increased COVID-19 vaccination.

Data from the Central Bank of Kenya indicate that average hotel forward bookings relative to bed capacity has risen to improved from 19.1% in September to 21.9% in October.

There was however slight drop in November as overall forward bookings plunged to 14.1% before bouncing back to 17.4% according to Hotels survey for September by CBK.

“Generally, forward bookings in the next four months is recovering slowly despite concerns about the evolving nature of the pandemic. Average bookings for September (unutilized services) were about 19%, similar to July,” said CBK.

Average hotel forward bookings (percent of bed capacity). Source | CBK

Mombasa hotels have reported the highest number of bookings recording 28%, 20% and 29.5% for October, November and December respectively.

“This was also true for the hotels in the rest of the country but only largely in October as they don’t rely on long prior bookings. Majority of these hotels reported that they largely depend on walk-in clients or bookings on short notice. Hotels in Nairobi reported lower bookings since many clients prefer visiting other towns or the rural areas during the festive season.”

However, despite the slow recovery in international travel, local visitors have offered tourism sector a lifeline taking up 80% of accommodation and 79% of restaurant services between August and September this year, compared to 62% and 69%, respectively, during the period before the pandemic.

Nonetheless, the easing of international travel restrictions as well intensified COVID-19 vaccination globally saw improvement in the share of foreign clientele in both accommodation and restaurant services.

Local and foreign clients served by hotels (percent of total clients). Source | CBK

“This is reflected in the number of international tourist arrivals that increased by 15 percent between July and August 2021. In addition, the World U20 athletics championship boosted the number of foreign guests using the hotel services.”

The restaurant services improved to 40 percent in August and September from 38 percent in July.

The levels of operations however remained flatat 96% between July and September this year as hotelier remained concerned on a possible fifth wave of coronavirus.

“Nevertheless, respondents reported concerns and risks related to possible resurgence of COVID-19 infections arising from the enhanced political activities that are defying the Ministry of Health protocols on COVID-19 prevention,” noted CBK.

According to the survey, hotels have continued to recall staff temporarilly suspended as a result of COVID-19 disruptions.

Employment in the hospitality industry improved from 66% in July to 75% in August before declining slightly to 72% in September.

The decline in employment levels in Nairobi hotels during the month of September reflected higher employment levels recorded in August during the World U20 athletics championship that gave the hotels higher business, CBK said.

55.8% of the respondents said covid still remains a big concern while 11.6% said their main concern is the high operational costs associated with high costs of fuel and electricity, numerous licenses and fees, and various taxes and aggressive collection methods amid low revenues.

14% of the respondents want curfew lifted, 9.3% called for increased vaccination while 5% want inceptives to be offered to the sector in order to support recovery.


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