Tourism sector bounces back despite covid-19 and floods in Baringo

This year has presented a very harsh business environment for the hospitality industry especially those relying on tourism.

With the onset of Covid-19 pandemic and suspension of international travel most hotels closed business just three months into the year.

The scenario looks more difficult for players doing their business in the floor of the Rift Valley. The area that relies on the water bodies as tourist catchment seem to face another setback due to rising water levels in the lakes.

Baringo county in not an exception with most of its tourism pivoting along the three lakes; Lake Bogoria, Baringo and Lake 94.

Due to heavy rainfall in the last three months water levels in these lakes have risen sharply to the extent of not only destroying the attractive flora and fauna but also the tourism infrastructure like the hotels, roads and parks.

Most of the hotels along the shores of these lakes have disappeared into the rising waters occasioning huge losses to the industry.

The industry will lose out on the peak season which starts in August with the phenomenal migration of flamingos into lake Bogoria, Baringo from Lake Natron in Tanzania.

Currently the Baringo County Government ran game reserve has been closed as the authorities work on alternative road after the one leading to the park was submerged by the swollen lake.

However, Lake Bogoria Spa Resort has risen beyond these challenges and showed resilience in the face of double calamity of floods and covid-19.

The hotel opened its gates to the public a month ago with discounted packages to lure the local tourists and swing back to business.

According to the Hotel’s General Manager, Mrs. Lydia Dentewo, the hotel is now doing 40% of its normal operations and has recalled all its staff to work on rotational basis.

“We have started receiving visitors, Kenyans are now visiting after being in a lock down for a while,” said Dentewo.

She added that the tourism is an important sector as it employs one in every ten Kenyans in addition to those who benefit from business of supplying goods and services to the hotels.

She encourages more Kenyans to visit the park to enjoy the spectacular flamingos and the hot geysers saying that the County government is building an alternative route to access the sites.

“The flamingos are back again, we have seen them in the last one week flying in, there are new sites we can view even as we wait for completion of new road,” said Dentewo.

She encouraged tourists to visit Baringo noting that there are so many other places to see in the county.

Dentewo assured visitors of their safety saying despite the floods the roads are passable and that there are many places that are far from the floods where they can relax and unwind.

“We tell clients they are safe to visit Baringo despite the lakes rising, the hotel is far from the lake and so they should not fear that Baringo is submerged,” she said.

The hotel has a capacity of 250 in normal times but they have reduced to 150 due to Covid-19 and the Rift Valley Hills Resort in Kabarnet can accommodate 61 guests.

She is optimistic that the hotel would pick up to 75% by December as they put in more measures to combat the pandemic.

“We are strictly following Covid-19 protocols to ensure safety of both our staff and clients,” assured the Manager.

The hotel has put in many washing points and sanitizers in the hotel as well as in the staff houses where they have now resorted to hosting them as a safety measure against the disease.

She is optimistic that the industry may pick up to cash in on the August Pick season as well as benefit from the resumption of international flights that may bring in tourists.

“Welcome to Baringo and enjoy Baringo’s diversity that include hot geysers, many bird species, increased flamingo, wildlife, culture, Koriema meat and the organic foods and fruits,” came the parting shot.