Kenya’s travel and tour industry is staring at losses following the massive cancellation of holiday flights to Kenya by leading UK tour operator Tui Group.
Tui Group canceled holiday flights from Britain to Kenya after the UK government maintained Kenya is a travel risk due to Covid-19.
There was an expectation that Kenya’s travel status in the UK would change with its removal from the “Red list”. The “red list countries” are those with increased cases of Covid-19.
Kenya’s Rising Positivity Rate
However, Kenya’s positivity rate rises steadily each week, sending the wrong signals to the west. On Wednesday, the country’s positivity rate was at 15%. It grew from 9% in the past two months.
Travelers from flagged countries are not allowed into the UK.
Britons returning home from red list countries are required to quarantine for ten days in hotels.
With Tui Group canceling all holiday reservations for British tourists, Kenya’s tourism industry counts massive losses.
British tourists make up a minimum of 100,000 visitors out of the 1.3 million tourists who visit Kenya annually. Britain gives Kenya the second-highest number of visitors after the US.
In 2019, there were 184,484 British tourists visiting Kenya for holiday.
All holiday bookings between August and September 4 remain canceled. It is not clear yet how many people will miss their planned holiday.
The Great Migration In Maasai Mara
This is a significant blow to Kenya’s tour and travel industry, which cashes in on high tourist turnout between July and September.
The Great Migration of the wildebeest migration in Maasai Mara National Reserve is at its peak during these months.
An estimated two million wild animals cross the Mara River in search of pasture in Kenya. They travel back to the Serengeti towards the end of September.
At the beginning of the season, hoteliers were optimistic that business would be back to normalcy after beating the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
Last year, things were challenging due to travel restrictions following the Covid-19 pandemic. Only a dozen tourists – most of who reside in Kenya – made it to Maasai Mara.
Most Kenyans stayed home in fear of contracting the virus, which was ravaging the country then. Hoteliers were left grappling with canceled bookings then.
In July, most hotels in the Maasi Mara game reserve recorded full bookings for August and September.
However, the hoteliers are now counting losses following Kenya’s retention in the ‘Red List.
Further, an escalation of a travel advisory issued a week ago by the US is also likely to worsen the Kenyan tourism industry.
The US and Britain make up more than 50% of the tourists visiting Kenya annually.
Sadly, holiday booking cancellations come amid good news of expanding the Angama Mara Airstrip to an airport.
Angama Mara is at the heart of Maasai Mara National Reserve. Its upgrade will increase traffic to Maasai Mara.
The airstrip currently serves a small fraction of visitors touring the Mara. Most visitors travel by road from various destinations in the country.
At least 300,000 tourists are visiting Maasai Mara every year. The iconic reserve has 40 properties – camps and lodges.
The number rose from a dozen lodges in yesteryears to 40 as tourism in Narok promises an almost guaranteed path to luxury.
Low Revenue Collection
While the cancellations hit hoteliers and tour operators hard, the government is also affected because it is losing millions of shillings in revenue.
For example, the Narok County Government, which manages Maasai Mara, collects at least Ksh1 billion annually from the reserve. This is according to the Controller of Budget.
However, with the low traffic, the revenues will dip.