More than 2.5 million Kenyans working in the tourism sector lost their jobs in the last five months due to COVID-19 related disruptions, a government official said on Thursday.

Najib Balala, cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, said the pandemic triggered massive loss of jobs in the hospitality sector amid suspension of international travel.

“The tourism sector has been hit hard and we need to look at tourism and aviation and invest today, let us push hard and when COVID goes away our economy will be totally different,” Balala said during a webinar on opening Africa’s economies safely amidst COVID-19 held in Nairobi.

Balala said hotels and lodges were provided with 30 million dollars to facilitate their refurbishing.

“Our facilities have been in a deplorable state making them difficult to be used, we need to refurbish them in order for them to continue giving services,” said Balala.

He said micro, small and medium enterprises, particularly the tourism and aviation sectors have been severely affected due to requisite preventive measures to curb the spread of the virus such as prolonged lockdowns and quarantining of transnational travelers.

The official noted that scouts at the Kenya Wildlife Service were provided with 10 million dollars by the government to cushion them against negative effects of COVID-19 pandemic.

Balala said that Kenya is banking on domestic travelers to resuscitate the tourism sector which contributes about 10 percent to the country’s GDP.

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