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Cancellation of W Africa flights hurting hospitality industry

20 August 2014, 12:11 Samuel Kisika

Nairobi – The hospitality industry has raised concern over the government’s move to cancel some West African flights for fear of Ebola saying the directive will heavily affect the industry.

The Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers (KAHC) Chairman, Jaideep Vohra said the hospitality industry is still faced with serious challenges right from the issuance of travel advisories in May by some Western countries as a result of insecurity to the current rising cases of crime and Ebola alerts.

“At present, Kenya is faced with a barrage of negative press both locally and internationally due to the prevailing security situation arising from terrorism as well as an increase in reported cases of crime,” said Vohra.

“Add the negative publicity that has been caused by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the result is more cancellation. We are calling on our security apparatus to be more vigilant so that we can be able to guarantee the security of both our citizens as well as that of our visitors,” he added.

Vohra asserted that Foreign Affairs ministry should review cooperation between the Kenyan government and other international source markets regarding the issued travel advisories that have hampered hotel businesses especially at the Coast.

“The advisories continue to hit the industry hard, for as late as last week another two charter flights announced that they will discontinue flights to Mombasa. This in addition to the Thompson’s Charter that pulled out after the May advisories,” said Vohra, adding that the losses to Coastal businesses may be felt to the last quarter of 2015.

He also said the enacted 2013 VAT Act has made the country least competitive among East African countries since the Act requires the industry to add VAT on Park Entry fees and package services offered by tour operators.

Vohra asked the government to suspend VAT on the industry’s affected services within 18 months to make the country more competitive in attracting many investors and tourists.

The Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions Hospitals and Allied Workers (KUDHEIHA) Secretary General, Albert Obed said the government should provide a secure environment for the hospitality industry to curb the continued closure of hotels and loss of jobs.

“In Southern Coast, five hotels have been closed while in Northern, 15 hotels are closed yet each employs over 100 workers who are now jobless. The hospitality industry contributes over KES 150 billion of the country’s annual income and the government should intervene with urgency,” said Obed.

Obed added that the industry has set up its own Private Sector Recovery team to publicise the country’s tourism sector in international market through online advertisements to counter negative publicity by foreign press discouraging their citizens from visiting.

“We are requesting the President to give us one Ministry of Tourism separate from Wildlife to independently address the industry’s issues with effectiveness for incredible growth,” said Obed.

The two industry stakeholders were speaking at a press conference regarding continued challenges they face in their daily hotel and catering business operations.

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