TRAVEL AND TOURISM TRENDS IN KENYA IN THE ERA OF COVID-19

COVID-19 dealt the whole world a huge blow. The pandemic affected many sectors in Kenya, thus calling for adjustments in an effort to survive.

The tourism industry is one that was hardest hit given the pandemic came with restrictions in movement. As at June, the tourism industry had lost 850 million dollars since the pandemic, as reported by the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, Najib Balala. There had been major job losses and the tourism industry, safe to say, was out of business.

An easing of the restrictions in early July and the consequent lift of suspension on international flights on 1st August 2020 revived tourism saving it a little from its would be demise. Following the resumption of tourism, new trends have been observed in travel and tourism:

Domestic tourism

Domestic tourism may very well have kept the tourism industry a float, as a huge rise in local tourism was observed after restrictions were lifted. People’s pent up desire to explore outside after quarantine, had them sourcing for adventure. Yet still with the fear of COVID hanging over their heads, many went the direction of domestic tourism. And with hotels charging lower rates for Kenyan residents, in an effort to protect profits, more local people had the chance to be tourists in their own country. The pandemic surprisingly worked well for the domestic tourism sector as many saw how much potential the country has in as far as holidays are concerned.

Staycations Surge

Staycations reaped and continue to reap heavily from the pandemic as a surge in leisure travel closer to home has been observed. This was greatly fueled by the desire to get out of the house after long periods indoors in an effort to inject novelty into an otherwise mundane day-to-day. More and more people are looking to enjoy themselves whilst avoiding crowds therefore opting for isolated stays in private villas or quiet coastal locations.

Visiting green spaces

After restrictions were eased, nature breaks in parks and forests were seemingly more appealing than indoor amusement spaces such as malls. The Kenya Wildlife Service reported that the country’s forests and woodlands recorded an increase in foot traffic during the pandemic. More and more people continue to explore locations such as Karura forest, Ngong’ Hills as they are devoid of crowds.

Tighter Protocols

Tighter measures were put in place with the resumption of international travel. In Kenya for instance, the following measures were put in place for travelers to Kenya:

  • Passengers must have a medical certificate with a negative COVID-19 PCR test result, issued no more than 96 hours before departure
  • Fill out a “Travelers Health Surveillance Form” online for contact tracing
  • There will be health screenings on arrival
  • Depending on the country of origin, some travelers may be required to quarantine. 
  • Anyone who shows symptoms of COVID-19 on arrival will be required to quarantine in their accommodation for the first 14 days. Passengers seated on two rows surrounding anyone on a flight displaying symptoms will be traced and required to quarantine for 14 days.

Touch-less Travel

With tighter measures being put in place to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, airlines and hotels have had to take up biometrics (facial recognition/ contactless fingerprint scan) in exchanging travel documents to limit points of contact with travelers. Qatar Airways, for instance, has added features to its mobile app that reduce touch points throughout a traveler’s journey, including providing boarding passes that can be downloaded into mobile wallets and the capability to generate luggage tags that can be printed at home. The app also features the capability to select preferred seats and meals in advance.

By Lizz Abade.

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