Hotels halt lay offs as business booms

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By MATHIAS RINGA
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Many hotels have diversified to domestic and regional conference tourism in the wake of falling international visitors, enjoying brisk business since the beginning of this year.

Heritage Hotels chief executive officer Mohamed Hersi said Voyager Hotel in Mombasa, for instance, has been receiving huge numbers of local and regional guests.

Mr Hersi said occupancy has been averaging 78 per cent since January, compared with 60 per cent in the same period last year.

The facility has also been attracting a sizeable number of holidaymakers from neighbouring Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda.

“In recent years, Voyager has been hosting guests from Ethiopia after we marketed the hotel in Addis Ababa,” he told the Sunday Nation.

“Ethiopia is a lucrative market for us as it has a population of more than 80 million. The other advantage is that Ethiopian Airlines flies to Mombasa,” said Mr Hersi.

Mr Hersi, who is also the Kenya Coast Tourism Association chairman, said the hotel has been benefiting from corporate meetings.

“Also, about 30 per cent of the visitors are from Europe, as well as expatriates,” he said.

Hotels at the Coast this week said they had stopped laying off staff, attributing this to revival efforts.

On average, they are recording 70-75 per cent occupancy, which is good for business.

Travellers Beach Hotel general manager Wafula Waswa said the hotel had 92 per cent occupancy, thanks to conferences.

He said guest numbers have been averaging 80 per cent this month, compared with 50 per cent in February last year.

“Following a tourism downturn in 2014, we diversified to conference tourism. Since then the business has improved,” he said.

Last year, Mr Waswa said, the facility expanded its conference provision with a new 400-seater room to accommodate an increasing number of participants.

Apart from conference tourism, he said, the hotel has been receiving local and regional tourists from Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.

“Tourists from neighbouring, landlocked countries have been coming to Mombasa for leisure, attracted mainly by the sandy beaches,” he said.

PrideInn Beach Resort and Spa general manager Imtyaz Mirza said diversification to conference tourism has been paying off.

He said PrideInn Group last month opened a resort and convention centre built at a cost of Sh3 billion to attract leisure and conference travellers.

The convention centre with a 2,500 sitting capacity has already attracted a SKAL World Congress slated for 2018.

“We are also bidding for 12 international meetings to transform Mombasa into a conference hub and overcome the challenge of low tourist seasons,” said Mr Mirza.

A combination of leisure and convention products, he noted, has enabled the hotel to enjoy an occupancy rate of 67 per cent, compared with 63 per cent last month.

“In March, we expect to register 80 per cent occupancy, bolstered by local and regional conferences,” he said.

Leopard Beach Resort general manager Omar Mohamed said the hotel has been promoting domestic and regional tourism to boost guest numbers.

He said the resort is participating in the Pearl of Africa Expo in Kampala to woo Ugandan holidaymakers.

“We have been participating in travel fairs in Tanzania, South Africa and now in Uganda to attract tourists from the continent,” he said, adding that the hotel could attract more Ugandans after participating in the trade fair which ends today (Sunday).

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