Kenya: Suspension for the tourism sector as Balala Okays Meetings

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Tourism industry players can now breathe a sigh of relief after the national government eased some of the new Covid-19 restrictions imposed to fight the pandemic.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe last week suspended all public gatherings and in-person meetings from June 30 affecting the area at the start of peak season this month.

On July 30, Mr. Kagwe banned all public gatherings and face-to-face meetings due to a wave of the virus.

But on August 3, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala announced that hotels can hold meetings with a maximum capacity of 30 people.

However, Mr Balala warned that those who violate Health Ministry regulations would have their licenses revoked for a year.

“We have allowed smaller meetings with a regulated form of adherence to protocols. These small meetings should take place but a maximum of 30 people. This is the new normal, we have to live with this pandemic, this virus is in. changing every day, ”he said.

Mr Balala said restaurants should be closed at 9 p.m., not 7 p.m., with violations resulting in the cancellation of licenses. The SC said the regulations are mitigating measures imposed to tackle the virus.

“We have agreed especially with the bars and restaurants that break the law, we will shame them so that people do not destroy the area because of a few greedy individuals. We will also take action against those who violate,” said the CS at a press conference.

He congratulated the actors of the industry for the total respect of the protocols in their premises.

“Tourists have praised our industry for strictly adhering to regulations such as hand washing, social distancing in our hotels and restaurants, checking temperatures and having customers wear face masks,” the CS said.

Mr Balala said the industry will ensure self-regulation with an enforcement team led by the Tourism Regulatory Authority in coordination with the multi-agency team at the Covid-19 command center in the event of a crisis.

Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers (KAHC) chairman Mike Macharia said industry players were happy the government did not impose another lockdown.

“Because we are seeing the industry slowly starting to recover. We need to deliver our services safely,” Macharia insisted.

Hoteliers who expected to cash in on Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) have taken a heavy blow as a result of the ban.

Expected hotel meetings and weddings were called off at the last minute and some were postponed leaving hotels empty with industry players counting huge losses.

But industry players on the coast, led by Diani Reef Beach Resort general manager Jotham Mwang’ombe, called Mr Balala’s decision unfair to the industry.

“CS’s decision doesn’t help the industry. I mean, if my conference can hold 800 people, I should be allowed to do 25 percent of my capacity. We need a progressive minister. It really hurts hotels. Hotels survive on MICE but when you tell us to hold 30 people, then that’s unfair, “he said.

Mr. Mwang’ombe urged the SC to discuss with stakeholders before implementing critical decisions affecting the sector.

“We have invested a lot in the protocols. We are wondering where we are going as a sector,” he said.


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