March 19, 2020 / 5:13 PM / 14 days ago

Coronavirus hits tourism industry on Kenya's coast

MOMBASA,Kenya, March 19 (Reuters) - Restrictions on foreigners coming into Kenya, imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus, have delivered a big hit to the country’s tourism industry, with some hotels on the coast reporting occupancy rates of well below 10%.

A spot check in various hotels around the city of Mombasa on Thursday showed most of the hotels now had an average of 7% occupancy rate or less.

Tourism is among Kenya’s leading foreign exchange earners, bringing in 163.56 billion shillings ($1.56 billion)last year. Mombasa depends largely on tourism for its livelihood.

“We were at 88%, right now we are at 7%. It does not look as if it is growing, and 7% (is) because of the cancellations we had this week,” Victor Shitaka, general manager of Flamingo Beach Hotel, told Reuters.

Kenya banned entry on Sunday to people travelling from any country with reported coronavirus cases for 30 days, with the exception of Kenyan citizens and foreigners with residence permits, who will have to undergo a period of self-quarantine.

Kenya reported its first case of coronavirus a week ago and now has seven confirmed cases.

Curio traders said the situation felt worse than the years from 2012 to 2015 when visitor numbers fell after a spate of attacks claimed by Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, which wants Kenya to pull its troops out of Somalia.

“Just look around, no one else here but you and me. This virus it seems has doomed us and sadly after leaving here, mouths are waiting for us back home to feed them,” Safari Juma, a curio trader, told Reuters in Mombasa.

$1 = 104.9500 Kenyan shillings Reporting by Reuters Television Writing by George Obulutsa Editing by Frances Kerry

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