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Tourism stakeholders back covid vaccination to sustain recovery

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The arrival of a AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines in Kenya early this month has seen tourism industry start preparing for increased bookings after a slump last year.

While stakeholders in the travel and hospitality industry remain upbeat about recovery backed by the ongoing mass vaccination progamme, they predict that 2021 will still be a rough year for travel and hospitality industries and full recovery could be a year away.

“The vaccine is expected to be a significant boon for tourism and hospitality industry, which has been badly affected by border closures, travel restrictions, curfew and social distancing measures related to COVID-19. We predict an increase of between 15% – 20% bookings and accommodation,” said Hasnain Noorani, PrideInn Group Managing Director.

The news has raised hopes of a quick recovery from both the health-related challenges and the economic impacts of the pandemic.

“However, with a vaccine allowing for greater movement and trade, we are hopeful that it will lead to a quicker rebound in tourism activity and have ripple effect,“ he added
While a vaccine will be key to any resumption in mass tourism, industry players says that other measures will also be crucial to a recovery.

“I believe that the main priority of the tourism industry is to get people travelling and doing business and events again safely by giving government confidence that systematic COVID-19 prevention measures are possible and reliable prior to having a vaccine,” Victor Shitakha, Chairman, Kenya Coast Tourism Association.

Although the situation eased with withdrawal of movement restrictions many parts of the world are now experiencing a second spike in coronavirus cases, leading to further restrictions.

“As we all know, the vaccine program will take a while to roll out to all parts of the country, so pre- and post-vaccine programmes should be concurrently available,” added Shitakha.

In addition to the fiscal constraints on households, some tourism-related companies may find it difficult to return to business after spending much of 2020 and 2021 either closed or operating severely below capacity.

“Prior to the release of the vaccine, people have been cautious about leisure travel, this has seen many facilities indefinitely close. The sector will definitely recover but not without the government’s support,’’ Hasnain.

Last Friday, the government extended the order by restaurants, bars and other outlets to close by 9PM for another two months, holding breaks further to the expected takeoff.