Uniform Grading for East African Hotels On the Way

A uniform criteria for classifying hotels and restaurants in East Africa is being developed. The move would boost efforts to market the region as a single destination for tourists, Kenya`s Tourism Minister Kalonzo Musyoka said.

The process would involve grading of hotels and restaurants in the three East African countries according to the internationally recognised standards, he said. The minister was speaking at the inauguration of the newly constituted Hotels and Restaurant Authority at the Grand Regency Hotel, Nairobi, yesterday. Headed by by Mr Zul Harunani, the authority would be charged with setting standards of services in the tourism industry.

It would grade local hotels and restaurants according to the set professional status and inspect them to ensure compliance with international standards. They would also ensure that only qualified persons were entrusted to operate and manage them. Mr Musyoka said the authority had classified most hotels in some parts of the country, and the process - which was last carried out in 1988 - was going on in the Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza provinces. Mr Musyoka said the Hotel and Restaurants Act and the Tourist Industry Licensing Act would be harmonised to give the authority more responsibilities, including issuing of work permits to foreigners as well as determining the location and viability of hotel establishments.

Noting that the country had enough manpower, the minister appealed to hotel proprietors to give priority to locally-trained management personnel rather that hiring foreign experts. Mr Harunani said the authority would boost efforts towards reviving the tourism industry. Meanwhile, the industry is asking the government to extend Stabex funds to the sector. Hotelier Z.K. Nderu said that the tourism sector needed assistance, just like the coffee and tea industries. Mr Nderu, the proprietor of Lotus Hotel in Mombasa, said hoteliers required financial assistance - in the form of soft credit - to rehabilitate their institutions. Tourism is the main and most reliable contributor to the economy, having brought in Sh19.5 billion in the year 2000, he said.