2020's wins and losses in the travel world tourism industry

Friday December 25 2020

Domestic tourists on a game drive in Kenya in July watch the wildebeest migration in the Maasai Mara game reserve. Local tourism has been booming. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


The Covid-19 pandemic greatly affected Kenya’s tourism industry. After the announcement of the first case in the country in March, several hotels closed down and flights were grounded.

In July, when the lockdown was lifted, and the industry began to gradually reopen, industry players had to adapt to the new normal. There are segments of the sector that have done well, and others that lost to Covid.

Domestic travellers

Despite Kenya opening up its borders to international travellers on August 1, the inflow of international tourists has been low. Pricing of hotels and flights has shifted in favour of the domestic traveller. This festive season, popular hotels at the Kenyan coast are fully booked, and you would be hard pressed to find airline tickets to Malindi. The SGR train tickets to Mombasa are sold out as well. If you are an avid traveller, looking for the best travel and holiday bargains, this is the time to do so.

Luxurious hotels have reduced their prices. The domestic traveller continues to win while experiencing extra cleanliness and sanitisation in areas that were previously neglected.

Ground tour safaris


Many Kenyans had not witnessed one of the seven new wonders of the world, the wildebeest migration, or even gone on a game drive safari. From July to September, they took up the offerings from tour companies with passionate enthusiasm.

Several lodges and camps charged unprecedented lower prices for accommodation, and they were filled to capacity. Safari land cruisers with their large, and therefore airy, openings are a safe bet for families to use.

Beach holiday homes

Before the coronavirus pandemic, holiday homes were not popular mainly due to their lack of amenities such as conference facilities, restaurants, large swimming pools, children play areas and clubs, spas and gyms. Pricing on holiday homes has therefore remained fairly low.

Privacy, promised cleanliness, exclusivity, and your own chef service are now most attractive. Holiday homes were the most requested type of accommodation this festive season, and many are now fully booked until January 3, 2021.

Boutique hotels

With well-spaced interiors and private accommodation, social distancing is not a problem. Boutique hotels have carved for themselves a competitive advantage of an environment that is considered relatively Covid-free.

Small airlines

Once you have chartered the aircraft, you get to choose who will be flying with you, when and where to. Smaller airlines contracted their light aircraft for essential travel to medical personnel, for private charter flights and to companies with employees who needed to travel internationally.

The smaller airlines are operating full flights during this festive period.

Big airlines

With commercial and international travel still slow, larger airlines have had to reduce their flights, negatively affecting their bottom line. Even with health restrictions for passengers in place, experts predict that international air travel will return to normal in 2022.

Large chain hotels

Many hotels with hundreds of rooms had to shut down during the pandemic. Large gatherings in these hotels are a great breeding ground for the virus, so clients have stayed away. Several have invested in better cleanliness and sanitisation, and reopened, but others chose to close down completely.


Many travel agencies in Kenya were catering to the international market. They had to restructure their staff in order to stay afloat. The employees in some hotels lost their jobs as well. News reports say that by September 2.5 million jobs in Kenya's hospitality industry had been lost.

Travelling for fun is safer now, with strict adherence to the wearing of masks, social distancing, and frequent washing and sanitising of hands. Hopefully, this upward trend will continue to allow the country's travel and tourism to flourish again.