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Kenya: Safari Rally Breathes Life Into Naivasha’s Hospitality Industry

Workers in the hospitality industry have a World Rally Championship (WRC) event to thank after majority of them were recalled ahead of the global competition.

The proprietor of Astorian Grand Hotel in Naivasha, Stephen Mungai Aston, said his facility has been fully booked ahead of WRC Safari Rally due June 24-27 this year.

Speaking to Nation Sport at his hotel on Tuesday, the investor described the staging of the event in the commercial town of Naivasha as “God-sent.”

“We were almost closing shop due to the hardship caused by the virus. The rallying event is a big reprieve for hotel owners in Naivasha and by extension Gilgil and Nakuru,” said Mungai.

He revealed that he will be recalling all the workers, who had been sent home after the facilities were closed due to Covid-19 pandemic.

“We will be recalling all the workers, having majorly worked with a skeleton staff, thanks to the WRC event,” divulged Mungai.

The hotel has 40-room capacity, with all of them having been booked by, among others, rally spectators.

He called on fellow hoteliers to seize the “golden moment,” and learn a lesson or two, hosting international guests.

Nakuru County Government Tourism Naivasha chapter treasurer and Panorama Hotel General Manager, Sammy Mugo, admitted that hosting the event has been a turning point for hoteliers.

He admitted that the industry had suffered monumental losses running into millions of shillings.

“I cannot put a figure to it. But the losses have been monumental… for proper quantification, we have to look on a case to case basis,” said Mugo.

He cited the hotel he heads, saying at least 50 employees have been affected by the restructuring process, occasioned by the virus.

He was, however, upbeat about the industry leveraging on the event to recoup the losses.

The Astorian Hotel’s guest house at the Panda Flowers Farm has also been frequented by media personnel doing their recce for Safari Rally and is expected to be taken up during competition time.

This scenic location has also been fully booked by the rally’s Service Park personnel who will be living in the High Density Area, or a location where they will not mix with others because of Covid-19 protocols.

Like Astorian, Hylise Hotel along Nairobi-Nakuru highway is another gateway to Naivasha for budget local tourists which is popular with rally lovers.

The management has come up with tailor-made packages and will be working around the clock to cater for officials in the field, some of them expected to report to work as early as 4:00am.

During the recent Equator Rally, over 4,800 officials, competitors and support teams were accommodated in Naivasha, with the numbers during the WRC Safari Rally expected to double, or even triple these figures.