Wednesday, 17 May 2017

AFRICA: Africa Has The Potential, Predicts Serena Hotels Boss

Serena Hotels operator TPS Eastern Africa is optimistic about prospects for this year after an 8 percent rise in bookings for safaris in Kenya for second half, its chief executive said on Friday.

Bookings are up even though Kenya goes to the polls on August 8, a decade after a disputed presidential election led to violence, which left more than a thousand dead and the vital tourism sector on its knees.

A series of attacks by al Shabaab militants from 2013 has also hit Kenya's tourism industry.

TPS CEO Mahmud Janmohamed said there were hopes that the election would pass off fairly peacefully, after a peaceful vote in 2013.

The increase in bookings was also a reflection of stronger demand from Chinese, American and Indian visitors.

At the moment, the Kenya safari circuit is looking better during the second half of this year despite the elections, he said.

But Janmohamed said Kenya's traditional European source markets had not yet recovered fully after the al Shabaab militant attacks in 2013.

Tourism, which is a top hard currency earner for Kenya, had an improvement in arrivals and revenue last year, but the performance was still way below 2011, when visitors jumped to a record high, a year considered as a benchmark.

The country earned 99.7 billion shillings ($965.15 million) from tourism last year, up from 84.6 billion shillings in the previous year, according to government statistics.

TPS Eastern Africa operates a chain of luxury hotels, lodges and tented camps in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, using its Serena brand.

Janmohamed said they had also won a contract to manage a new hotel in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, which will start operations next year.

The group returned to profit last year, after a loss in 2015, thanks to good earnings from the Tanzanian and Ugandan businesses.

This year, the group will still have to rely on the performance from those markets to shore up earnings, as it renovates and expands its main hotel in Nairobi, a 200-room five star property, which is currently operating at half its capacity due to the renovations.

Janmohamed said TPS was investing $24 million in the project, which was likely to be fully completed by June next year.

Nairobi will give us a healthy return on our investments so that is one area which we are working on, which in short term is obviously costing us money and losing of a lot of revenue,he said.

Similar renovations at the group's hotel in Kampala had been completed, the chief executive said.

Janmohamed called on the Kenyan government to boost its marketing budget for the tourism sector, and to keep developing new source markets for tourists, to avoid an over-reliance on traditional European markets.

Africa has the potential,he said.