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Mara hotels bank on wildebeest event to turn fortunes around

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Mara hotels bank on wildebeest event to turn fortunes around


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Wildebeest. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • Hoteliers at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve have expressed optimism that the industry will bounce back following high bookings ahead of the wildebeest migration expected to start this week.
  • The hotel managers are gaining confidence as a sizable number of international tourists have booked the lodges ahead of the migration of the wildebeest from Serengeti in Tanzania to the Mara in Kenya.
  • Keekorok Lodge manager James ole Pere said several hotels have received bookings from international tourists and they are expecting “a magic number of 50 percent” bed occupancy by mid this month.

Hoteliers at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve have expressed optimism that the industry will bounce back following high bookings ahead of the wildebeest migration expected to start this week.

The hotel managers are gaining confidence as a sizable number of international tourists have booked the lodges ahead of the migration of the wildebeest from Serengeti in Tanzania to the Mara in Kenya.

Keekorok Lodge manager James ole Pere said several hotels have received bookings from international tourists and they are expecting “a magic number of 50 percent” bed occupancy by mid this month.

Mr Pere said some of the tour companies that have not been in operation for over one year like Pollmans, Somak and Rhino Safaris are back in business and are already taking their clients to Mara.

The firms handle organised tourists who come in big numbers using fleet of vehicles for long tour circuits in Kenya and across East Africa

Mr Pere said for the last one month, the Mara has received “unlikely customers” who don’t fall under the traditional markets including from countries in the Eastern Europe such as Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Iran.

“We are also receiving bookings from the traditional markets in Europe, America, France but we are yet to receive any from the Chinese and Far East markets,” he added

Speaking to Business Daily in Narok, Mr Pere said by Mid-June scheduled flights, like Safari link and Air Kenya, which operate in the Mara have started to increase frequencies to twice a day.

Mr Pere said international photographers are already streaming into Mara in preparation for the epic wildebeest migration.

High-end camps and lodges such as Elewana, Salas camp, Angama and Entumototo are already witnessing increased bed occupancy compared to the middle level camps.

A spot-check by Business Daily indicates the Maimahiu-Narok-Maasai Mara highway is increasingly becoming busy with the number of Land cruisers, which make stopovers in Narok town.

Hoteliers say the Covid-19 vaccine has given international tourists confidence to visit Kenya.

“Some tourists from European countries who have observed the Covid-19 requirements to Kenya have done bookings to come and watch the migration after many of them missed out last year,” said Joseph Kararei of Entumoto luxury camp.

Some of the Ministry of Health requirements are that from midnight 24 May 2021, all passengers/crew arriving from the UK must have a valid certificate for a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken no more than 96 hours before arrival in Kenya except children below five years of age.

All travelers – regardless of age, and even those only transiting Kenya – must carry evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 96 hours of flying that can be verified digitally through the Trusted Travel Initiative (TT) system and the PanaBios system. At this time, it appears that a test result is required even if a traveler has been vaccinated.

At the same time the Narok county government which is incharge of the Management of the reserve seem to be fixing roads, culvert bridges in anticipation of the high season.

However, Managers say 2020 was a tough year when lessons were learnt the hard way when hotels operated between zero to 15 percent bed occupancy rate for local tourists but thanked domestic tourists from Kenya who kept them afloat.

“Last year 2020 was one of the worst tourist’s seasons since 1958 when the Mara was declared a tourist destination,”

“Even after the resumption of international flights in August last year, several camps and leisure hotels are still closed due to little or no demand,” said Mr Pere who is the chairman of the

Mr Pere said the traditional January-March low season has this year been worsened by the pandemic which has reduced domestic tourism activities and cut-off more than 80 per cent of international arrivals.

Ministry of Tourism numbers show that the country has lost more than 50 percent of total annual tourism earnings due to the pandemic. The country had lost Ksh81.8 billion by July this year, compared to last year’s revenue of Ksh163.6 billion.

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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


Cotu boss Francis Atwoli

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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