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Ole Sereni, dusitD2 lead hotel closures over coronavirus

DusitD2 at the 14 Riverside Complex
DusitD2 at the 14 Riverside Complex on January 31, 2019. It has reopened for business amid tight security and with most repairs completed. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG   

Nairobi’s Tribe Hotel, Ole Sereni and DusitD2 are among the high-end hotels that stopped operations in the wake of travel restrictions and social distancing rules introduced by the government to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The hotels in separate notices said they would remain shut until further notice, setting the stage for job cuts and unpaid leave for workers.

Restrictions on foreigners coming into Kenya have delivered a big hit to the country’s tourism industry, which brought in Sh163.56 billion last year.

Some hotels on the Coast have reported occupancy rates of well below 10 percent against 75 percent normally.

This has been worsened by the State order to shutting down bars and nightclubs, and allowing restaurants to operate takeaway services only.

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Some top hotels like Nairobi’s Villa Rosa Kempinski have limited business to room service.

“We have made the tough decision to suspend operations at Emara Ole Sereni and Ole Sereni effective March 24, 2020 until further notice,” Ole Sereni Hotels Group CEO Ghulam Samdani said in a notice yesterday.

The Group operates two hotels along Mombasa Road.

The government on Sunday issued an order cancelling all flights to Kenya from today save for cargo planes.

Kenya on March 13 confirmed its first case of the coronavirus, causing the shilling to weaken to levels last seen four and years ago on fears over reduced hard currency flows from sectors like tourism.

The cases have since jumped to 25, prompting the State to warn of fresh restrictions to be announced today.

“In light of the ongoing global travel restrictions, our management and board have consulted on the most appropriate measures to consolidate poor hospitality operations until the situation stabilises,” said Tribe Hotel in a notice issued Sunday evening.

“The decision has been made to suspend operations at Tribe from March 23, 2020 for the hotel to proceed with a number of renovations and upgrades.”

The properties still in operation have narrowed down to skeleton staff and cut off most amenities, including spa and gym.

For the restaurants, the meals are provided on a room service basis.

“In light of the evolving Covid-19 situation, some of the hotel’s restaurants will be closed and some facilities may have limited service.” said Villa Rosa Kempinski to its guests.

The restricted travel is a blow to the five-star DusitD2 Hotel, which reopened last August, six months after 21 people were killed in an attack on the hotel and office complex by terrorists linked to the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab.

In Kisumu, Grand Royal Swiss Hotel and Sovereign Hotel have also ceased operations, causing panic in the lakeside city.

“As we care for our guests and associates, we have to conclude on our decision to temporarily suspend all operations at the Grand Royal Swiss Hotel effective March 25, 2020 until further notice,” said Shanawaz Basheer, the general manager of the hotel.

Cruise ships

A spot check in Mombasa showed most of the hotels had an average of seven percent occupancy rate or less.

Mombasa depends largely on tourism for its livelihood.

Curio traders at the Coast reckon the situation felt worse than the years from 2012 to 2015 when visitor numbers fell after a spate of terrorist attacks claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab.

Nine cruise ships have since cancelled plans to dock at the Port of Mombasa.

The Kenya Association of Travel Agents is predicting a Sh1.02 billion decline on travel spending in country this year in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

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