Nearly two years since the pandemic hit and woefully ravaged Kenya’s hotel industry, the players are projecting to hit pre-Covid levels later this year.
This is part of the findings by the Central Bank of Kenya on hotels’ survey conducted in September.
Employment levels in the sector went up in August to 72 per cent of the pre-COVID-19 levels but declined slightly in September.
This is, however, the highest level of jobs recorded since March 2020 reflecting the continued recovery of the sector from the impact of the pandemic.
The average bed occupancy, utilization of restaurants, and conference services also improved in September compared to July.
The continued lifting of international travel restrictions has also seen an uptick in footfall of foreign clientele, who accounted for 20.5 per cent and 21.1 per cent of the accommodation and restaurant services respectively in September.
Under the prevailing business climate, 14 per cent of hotels surveyed expect to attain pre-Covid levels of operations this year, being an increase from 13 per cent in July reflecting optimism in the sector as restrictions are lifted and vaccinations intensify.
Earlier research in the hotel industry showed that recovery to pre-Covid-19 levels could take until 2023 or later.
The pandemic crippled hotels’ operations from room occupancy and staffing plans to food and beverage provisioning, which saw hundreds of hotels and restaurants close their doors, rendering thousands of people jobless.
Consequently, the number of formal employees in the sector declined by 38.7 per cent to 51,500 last year from 82,900 in 2019.
According to KNBS Economic Survey 2021 report, the wage payments in the accommodation and food services sector paid by the private firms declined by 42.0 per cent to Kes21.4 billion in 2020.
However, wage payments by the public sector investments increased by 13.0 per cent during the same period.
Strategies to flatten the Covid-19 infections curve such as lockdowns, social distancing, stay-at-home orders, travel, and mobility restrictions also resulted in the temporary closure of many industry businesses and a few that were allowed to operate experienced a significant slump in the demand for businesses.
Before the pandemic, the accommodation and food services sector was a key contributor to the robust performance of the economy. However, the sector contracted by 47.7 per cent last year.
The gradual reopening and easing of restrictions by allowing dine-in restaurants to reopen at a reduced capacity with social distancing guidelines, and gradually lifting restrictions on domestic and international travel have brought hope of recovery.
Many hotels across the country except in Nairobi are now in operation after the government lifted the containment measures.