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Domestic tourists cut holiday spending 37.5pc on Covid-19 woes

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Domestic tourists cut holiday spending 37.5pc on Covid-19 woes


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Tourists enjoy a camel ride along the Diani beach on June 8, 2021. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG

Domestic tourists cut their holiday expenditures by 37.5 percent last year, a new industry report shows, coming on the back of massive job losses and pay cuts as companies reduced operating costs amid liquidity challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Data from the Tourism Research Institute (TRI) shows that the average expenditure on package trips fell from Sh44,043 in the pre-Covid period to Sh27,545 during the pandemic.

Spending on recreational activities fell the most at 22 percent followed by food and drinks (13 percent), transport (10 percent) and accommodation (five percent).

This was a big blow to hotels, which hoped to ride on domestic tourism to cover the loss of income due to the restrictions and bans in international travel during the pandemic.

The minister’s sentiments came after the global arrivals fell to 47,296 in March 2020, from 119,670 in the previous month, and have continued to remain subdued in subsequent months despite the gradual easing of lockdown globally.

Early this year, the TRI estimated that it would take another three years before arrivals in Kenya rebound to the pre-Covid levels, pointing to prolonged pain for the tourism sector.

The institute said it expects international visitors to hit 2.2 million in 2024, slightly surpassing the 2.1 million visitors in 2019 when the industry experienced one of its best years.

“I challenge Kenyans to seek out new tourism offerings as they deliver a rich and unique experience. It’s high time we looked beyond what we are conventionally used to and discover these hidden gems spread across the country,” said Mr Balala last year.

The call, however, seems to have yielded little in terms of boosting expenditures at hotels, animal parks and heritage sites.

According to TRI, several factors have led to this, primary among them a fall in the amount of time Kenyans are willing to spend away on holiday.

The average number of nights domestic tourists spent in hotels and lodges dropped to two during the Covid-19 period from four nights previously.

Similarly, accommodation choices for hotels, guesthouses, campsites and motels dropped by nine percent, five percent, two percent and one percent, respectively. Others that recorded declines included game viewing/driving (10.1 percent), followed by hiking (7.1 percent) and shopping (4.7 percent).

The periodic lockdowns targeting certain counties have also not helped the tourism sector, especially the first one that restricted travel into and out of Mombasa and Kwale, which are the top domestic tourism destinations for Kenyans looking to enjoy the beach.

Nairobi has also been affected by two lockdowns, which effectively grounded domestic air travel due to its hub status. The county is also a key source market of domestic tourists — hosting a large share of middle-class Kenyans willing to travel.

Number of visitors

Most domestic tourists were from Nairobi (51 percent), followed by Mombasa (12.3 percent), Kiambu (6.3 percent), Kisumu (2.8 percent), Nakuru (2.6 percent) and Kajiado (2.6 percent).

Counties supplying the lowest number of visitors are Meru (1.1 percent), Makueni (1.2 percent), Busia (1.2 percent), Uasin Gishu (1.2 percent), Taita Taveta (1.3 percent) and Narok (1.4 percent).

Coastal towns of Mombasa, Kilifi and Narok, which hosts the world-famous Maasai Mara National Reserve, mostly felt the plunge in tourist traffic.

“Lockdowns and prohibited travel across the counties have forced us not to sell any local travel to the Maasai Mara, Mombasa, Malindi and regional destinations,” said Felistus Muindi of Oakland Tours and Safaris.

Consequently, in the six months to December 2020, Mombasa and Narok recorded a steep decline in internal revenue collections.

Controller of Budget data showed that Narok’s internal revenues fell by Sh1.56 billion in the period under review. The county felt the effect of a slump in tourist numbers to the Maasai Mara. The county raised a paltry Sh334.4 million in own-source revenue in the period from Sh1.89 billion a year earlier. Mombasa posted a drop of Sh403.2 million to earn Sh1.08 billion compared to Sh1.48 billion a year earlier.

Social behaviour

In addition to State-led actions affecting domestic tourism, the coronavirus has also meant that people have to adjust their social behaviour to protect themselves against infection.

The TRI Kenya Domestic Tourism Survey 2020 found Kenyans prefer travelling with friends and colleagues to doing so alone or with families.

Therefore, with the pandemic reducing the opportunity or socialise, many Kenyans isolated themselves within family units, affecting the travel opportunities.

The survey sampled 1,480 respondents across various tourist destinations.

The survey also found that hotels are losing out to newer and more cost-effective accommodation options due to tighter pockets.

Those who travelled during the Covid period sought accommodation from friends, relatives, resorts and Airbnb rose by five percent, four percent and one percent, respectively.

The TRI report urges the hotels and government to improve the domestic travel experience through better pricing, product (package) development and infrastructure upgrades to compete effectively. They should also ramp up marketing and promotion to tap new markets and customers.

Rural areas

“Create awareness through advertisements (local and international media), social media and other online platforms, schools, print media, government institutions, brand ambassadors and also the utilisation of all available platforms for a wider reach including rural areas,” said the TRI.

“Upgrade the facilities to international standards, improve the infrastructure like the park roads and normal roads as well as roads and telecommunication networks for ease of access to local tourist sites and improve on security in the country,” the report adds.

Earlier this month, the government allocated Sh2.3 billion to the tourism sector to help it recover from the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus.

The Treasury allocated Sh1.7 billion to the Tourism Fund and Sh643 million to the Tourism Promotion Fund to help lift the sector battered by the effects of the pandemic, which restricted travel.

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KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months

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KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months


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A Kenya Airways aircraft at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya Airways will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.
  • The airline in a notice to its customers yesterday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.

The airline in a notice to its customers Monday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

The airline will then resume full operations on the route on September 20, flying three times per week on the Indian route, which is one of the most lucrative destinations on its network.

Passengers on the route will part with Sh46,000 ($419) for one-way air ticket on economy class seats from Nairobi to Mumbai- prices that are relatively the same compared to what it was charging before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Welcome back onboard! Fly from Nairobi to Mumbai starting Thursday 16th September with normal schedules resuming from Monday 20th September 2021,” said the airline in a notice to its customers yesterday.

KQ Suspended passenger flights to and from Mumbai on April 30 until further notice, following a government directive on travel between India and Kenya due to a Covid-19 crisis in that country.

The airline said on Friday that passengers who had booked tickets after May 1, the date of the last flight from Mumbai to Nairobi, will have to change their plans.

Affected passengers, KQ said, could also take vouchers for the value of their fare for future travel within 12 months.

India has seen soaring infection rates in the recent days, since the discovery of a new virus variant. Last month, India put on lockdown one of the states following a spike in cases of Covid-19.

Other countries that have banned flights to India include France, the UK Bangladesh, Oman and Hong Kong that have banned travel to and from India or asked their nationals coming from the Asian country to isolate themselves in government-approved hotels.

India has so far detected 33,264,175 corona virus cases with the number of deaths hitting 442,874 as at September 13.

A large number of patients from Kenya also travel to India every year for specialised medical treatment, especially cancer care, helping to drive medical tourism in the densely populated country that boasts affordable and easily accessible healthcare.

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Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs

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Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs


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Man pulls a cart loaded with second-hand clothes at Gikomba Market in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.
  • Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.
  • Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

The average price of a tonne of second-hand clothing items imported into the country crossed the Sh100,000 mark for the first time last year on reduced volumes in the wake of safety protocols and guidelines to curb spread of coronavirus.

Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.

Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

Last year’s drop was the first dip since 2011 when 76,533 tonnes were shipped in compared with 80,423 tonnes the previous year, the official data collated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.

The import bill for the merchandise amounted to Sh12.24 billion, a drop of 31.11 percent, or Sh5.53 billion, year-on-year.

TIn imposing the temporary ban on used clothes, Kebs had applied a standard which prohibits buying second-hand clothes from countries experiencing epidemics to ensure disease-causing microorganisms are not imported into Kenya.

Higher quality and relatively lower prices for mitumba has continued to drive demand for used clothes at expense of locally-made products amid higher margins enjoyed by traders largely operating in informal markets.

The lucrative second-hand clothing market has seen traders from China —a key source market for the merchandise —open shops in Gikomba, Kenya’s largest informal market for mitumba, in recent years to cash in rising demand.

Earnings from exports of articles of apparel and clothing accessories fell 5.32 percent to Sh32.92 billion last year compared with 2019, data indicates.

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Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud

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Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud


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Cotu boss Francis Atwoli. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.
  • Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.

Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

Mr Atwoli is the secretary-general of KPAWU. The rival union claimed KPAWU had encroached on its area of workers’ representation.

Justice James Rika, however, dismissed the claim and ruled that the dispute should have been taken through conciliation, and was therefore presented in court prematurely.

He also stated that Kefhau must go beyond its registration and recruit sufficient members from the employers, to be granted recognition and organisational rights.

“Registration on its own, does not afford the claimant (Kefhau) recognition. Until there is proof that Kefhau has satisfied Section 54 of the Labour Relations Act, the status quo must be maintained,” said the judge.

“Kefhau must recruit at least 50 percent plus one, of the unionisable employees in the floriculture and horticulture industry, members of the Agricultural Employers Association to be considered for recognition,” he stated.

He noted that there is a Recognition Agreement and CBA, binding Mr Atwoli’s union and Agricultural Employers Association, affecting 73 Flower Growers Group of employers, and over 60,000 employees.

“It is objectionable for Kefhau to be allowed organisational rights, and the legitimacy to receive trade union dues and agency fees, from over 60,000 employees, just on the strength of registration as a trade union,” said the judge.

Kefhau wanted the court to declare that it is the sole trade union, which is allowed by its constitution to carry out activities in the export floriculture and vegetable industry, and an order restraining Mr Atwoli’s from representing workers in that area.

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