FILE PHOTO: Empty seats are seen at a departure lounge while a grounded aircrafts stand on the tarmac at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP via Getty Images)
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Kenyan Travel Industry Calls For State Bail-Out Amid Pandemic Shocks

Stakeholders in Kenya’s travel and hospitality sector on Wednesday appealed for fiscal, regulatory and financing incentives from the government to enhance its resilience in the face of pandemic-induced shocks.

Mohamed Wanyoike, chairman of the Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA), said that state bail-out is key to enable the sector to weather a downturn occasioned by new COVID-19 restrictions.

“We call on policymakers to continue discussions and agree on coordinated measures that are necessary for the successful start of travel even as they strive to improve the country’s epidemiological situation,” Wanyoike said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

Kenya’s more than 200 travel agency businesses that have a combined workforce of 15,000 have borne the brunt of travel restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

Wanyoike said that travel operators who are mainly small and medium-sized enterprises have been struggling to stay afloat amid the cancellation of hotel bookings.

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“Suspension of domestic air services, an extended nightly curfew and a lockdown of five counties dealt a major blow to the industry,” said Wanyoike.

“In the meantime, the industry will need continued financial support to help weather the extended dry spell,” said Wanyoike.

Travel industry players are holding discussions with the Central Bank of Kenya and lenders to consider a moratorium on loans.

“This will give travel agents the much-needed cushioning from large-scale loan defaults, negative credit rating and risk profiling, even as they strategize on new ways to balance their books,” said Wanyoike.

He said that travel industry stakeholders are keen to comply with COVID-19 containment measures to facilitate the safe reopening of a sector that is a key source of jobs and revenue to the exchequer.

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