Players in the hospitality industry, one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide, now want the travel ban imposed by a section of Western capitals to be lifted to allow recovery.
“We are not yet out of the woods. We cannot until international travel is back,” said Mike Macharia, the chairman of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers.
“We get about 1.2 million visitors from the international market every year. Without those, it is a struggle,’’ he added.
The classification by different countries on whether travellers from certain countries should be allowed entry and if so, face quarantine because of coronavirus testing and vaccination discrepancies has restricted international travel, hurting tourism in the region, a mainstay of the economies.
“Particularly this red, yellow and green listing by countries such as the UK is not doing us any favours,” said Mr Macharia.
“We need Kenya to be removed from those red lists because people are scared that there is a serious outbreak in Kenya. We have infections but when we compare with other regions and countries, our numbers are not that bad.”
People who visit countries on green lists do not have to quarantine on returning to the UK. Kenya is not yet on the green list.
“The government is doing a good job by rolling out the vaccine programme. But what we might need from them is the bilateral agreements with other countries, particularly between the UK,” said Mr Macharia.
More than five million visits that UK residents, at least 80 percent, would normally have made for family visits overseas this summer (July-September 2021) would currently require quarantine and Covid-19 tests upon return.
Between 2016 and 2019, an average of five million visits by UK residents overseas were to friends and relatives in countries now on the amber or red lists, according to analysis of data from the International Passenger Survey.
The Covid-19 third wave has wreaked havoc on the airline plans leading to the suspension of air travel to destinations including the UK.
International travel has slowed down worldwide, due to Covid-19 variants delta, alpha, and the latest Lambda variant, common in South America.
“We serve seven destinations,London, Paris, Dubai, Bombay, Guangzhou and New York. Our flights to London have been reduced to two per week due to the Red List classification. Being on the list is hampering our air travel,” said Allan Kilavuka, Kenya Airways CEO.
KQ resumed domestic flights in mid-July in 2020. Most of Kenya’s tourists come from the UK, Germany, France, Netherlands and other Western countries.
This is where the government should focus its diplomacy and tourism policies,” said Ken Gichinga, Chief Economist at Mentoria Economics.
“This is because the tourism sector contributes over significantly to the economy and a decision to have international travel back again is a priority for the government”
Domestic travel supports and develops local and national economies, provides a rationale for infrastructure upgrading, disperses visitors geographically across regions and to least-visited rural areas, bridges the seasonality gap, creates employment opportunities and cushions destinations in times of crises.
“If you look at what we have done with our protocols, if you take the hotel industry alone, even when we were doing testing within the hotels, airline, and tourism, we were finding very low turnaround,” said Mr Macharia.
“And we went and vaccinated all our key staff. We have created safe zones within the tourism industry. For us we are ready to accept. But tourists are telling us they want to come but their countries are telling them not to come.”