Leaders in Kilifi County have called on the government to prioritize the tourism and hospitality sectors in its vaccination campaigns with a view to reviving the tourism sector.
They said the coronavirus pandemic had adversely affected tourism since Kenya had been declared a ‘red zone’ and called for more efforts to ensure all players in the tourism and hospitality sectors are vaccinated in order for the country to be declared safe to holiday.
Governor Amason Kingi and Kilifi North Member of Parliament Owen Yaa Baya also called on the residents of the Coastal region to present themselves in large numbers for vaccination, saying that was the only way the region could be declared safe.
They were speaking at the Malindi Sub County Hospital Tuesday during the launch of the Moderna vaccination campaign in which more than 300 hotel workers received the first dose.
Kingi and Baya were flanked by Members of County Assembly (MCAs) Nixon Mramba (Kakuyunu), David Kadenge Dadu (Malindi Town), Daniel Chiriba (Jilore), Reuben Katana (Ganda) and Majority Leader Adamson Kadenge Mwathethe (Shella) who also called on residents to be vaccinated against the global pandemic.
Governor Kingi said he had already talked with Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe and his Tourism and Wildlife counterpart Najib Balala on the need to give priority to workers in the tourism and hospitality industries so that international tourists can start coming into the country.
“We agreed, together with the two cabinet secretaries that time has come for us to have a dedicated programme for workers in the tourism sector be classified among the priority groups for vaccination,” he said.
He said this would ensure that when the vaccines arrive in the country, some doses are set aside for the tourism sector so that the message reaches our tourism markets that Kenya and especially the Coastal region is safe for holidaying without fear of being infected.
He noted that by doing so, local hotels would be fully booked and local youths will not have a reason to stay at home after being laid off due to lack of tourists.
On his part, Mr. Baya said some countries such as Zanzibar, Egypt and Mauritius had been declared safe to travel to after laying down strategies to ensure workers in the tourism and related sectors are vaccinated.
He said in those countries, all hotel workers, airport employees, taxi operators, beach operators, and supermarket workers among others have been targeted for vaccination, and that is why they have been declared safe while Kenya had been dropped.
Baya however lauded Governor Kingi for the strategies he had made to ensure hotel workers are vaccinated against the dangerous contagion, saying this would go a long way in building confidence in Kenya’s traditional tourist markets that something is done to ensure the country is safe to travel to.
“We want the world to know that we are taking tourism matters seriously and that is why we are here to launch the vaccination of hotel workers,” he said.
He however urged the governor to push the government to ensure that all workers at the Moi International Airport, Mombasa, all tour drivers and those operating taxis, all beach operators and safari sellers as well as all hotel workers and supermarkets employees get the mandatory jab.
“This will make us to within the shortest time declare Coast region and especially here in Kilifi to be a safe zone for tourists for the area to get the first charter flight so that residents can benefit from tourism,” he said.
Malindi Sub County Medical Officer of Health Emily Karisa said more than 300 hotel workers were vaccinated against the pandemic during the exercise, adding that the positivity rates in the sub county had started going down since the launch of the first vaccination exercise.