Radisson Blu closes one of its hotels in Kenya as bookings remain low

KENYA – Global hotel brand Radisson Hotels has halted operations in their Nairobi’s Upper Hill unit and sent most of its staff home as bookings remain subdued due to Covid-19 pandemic.

The closure comes at a time the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) survey on hotels iin Kenya showed that bed occupancy remains low, averaging 23 percent in November and October, compared to 24 percent in September.

A Radisson Blu Hotel spokesman confirmed the development to the Business Daily, saying the decision to send employees home was aimed at mitigating the economic impact of Covid-19 on the business.

“To mitigate some of the economic impact of the pandemic, coupled with the uncertainty of Radisson Blu Hotel Nairobi Upper Hill’s reopening date, we have had to make the difficult decision to reduce the size of our workforce at the hotel,” said the spokesperson.

“We understand this is an extremely difficult time for those affected and we will provide support to them throughout the process.”

“To mitigate some of the economic impact of the pandemic, coupled with the uncertainty of Radisson Blu Hotel Nairobi Upper Hill’s reopening date, we have had to make the difficult decision to reduce the size of our workforce at the hotel

The decision mirrors what was taken by the Kenya’s Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in late May when they closed Fairmont The Norfolk and Fairmont Mara Safari Cub due to low business and laid off all employees.

Raising Covid-19 infections forced another hotel Norfolk to renege on a March deal that had promised its workers half pay in April and May and a fresh deal from June.

Radisson Blu hotel has been paying employees since mid-March when Covid-19 hit Kenya and was hoping to reopen this month but failed to do so.

The information on the hotel’s website now puts the tentative date of reopening to end of March next year.

The 271-room hotel was mainly running on conferences and parties in the busy Nairobi’s Upper Hill area that was attracting business people who wanted venues outside the city centre.

Some of the released employees who spoke to the Business Daily on anonymity said they were given severance pay — amount paid to workers on early termination of contracts — and told that they would be given priority when conditions will be right to reopen.

However, the hotel’s sister establishments — Radisson Blu Hotel & Residence Nairobi Arboretum and Park Inn by Radisson Nairobi Westlands all in Nairobi remain in operation.

The Upper Hill hotel is the largest facility compared to the other two whose joint bed capacity is 262.

The CBK survey conducted mid-November to assess the extent of recovery in the hotels found that employment in the sector was averaging 53 percent from September’s 45 percent when compared with the pre-Covid-19 levels.

The surveyed hotels told the CBK that a resurgence in Covid-19 infections in November relative to October was hurting recovery.

“Local guests continue to support activity in the sector during the Covid-19 period, accounting for more than 80 percent of the total clientele for accommodation and restaurant services,” said the survey.

On average, just 58 percent of hotels said they expect to attain pre-Covid-19 levels of operations between late 2020 and 2021.

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