Tourism minister Najib Balala has on many occasions been urging hoteliers to allow locals to sample the tourist facilities. Mr Balala said many Kenyans can afford to go on beach holidays and therefore must be left to access all hotels in Kenya as domestic tourism has the capacity to cushion the industry during hard times. African Safari Club managing director Frank Neugebauer said the luxury hotel group was now turning to Kenya domestic tourism to keep afloat after being hit by global economic crunch coupled with post-election violence last year which brought tourism to its knees. Mr Neugebauer said African Safari Club, suffered a loss of Sh1 billion in 2003 after a huge fire gutted down four of its hotels at Shanzu in Mombassa in 2003.
The African Safari Club, boss, said: "For many years our hotels used to be packed with white foreign holidaymakers since the industry was performing well. We had our own chartered plane which used to ferry tourists from Europe, America and Asia, but allegations of racism and double standard are been floated by most Kenyans. “Frank Neugebauer continued to say that beginning next month; we shall open our doors to Kenya locals so that they can sample our tourist facilities. We shall offer Kenyans affordable rates for accommodation and meals." But Kenyans are not in a hurry to visit African Safari Club Hotels and Resorts.
The hard times, he said, forced the hotel group to shut down six of its hotels last year, adding that only Dolphin, Flamingo, Vasco da Gama and Sea Horse hotels were operating. He, however, said next month they would re-open Shanzu Beach Hotel and another one in November since bookings from Europe have started to trickle in. "At the moment we have more than 600 foreign tourists in our hotels but the number continues to swell as bookings are on the increase in the wake of the forthcoming Winter," Mr Neugebauer said.
The African Safari Club hotel group has since early this year been hit by a string of workers' strike due to non-payment of salaries. The ASC boss, however, said the hotel group was addressing its 750 employees' salary arrears to create a conducive working environment. He noted that ASC has remitted more than Sh1 million to the Ministry of Labour for the payment of 48 former employees who were dismissed after holding a strike over non payment of salaries and Sh5 million for its employees.
Over the years, Coast leaders had been lobbying for the hotel chain to allow locals enjoy the tourist facilities but to no avail. Last year African Safari Club sparked a national uproar after a foreign tourist's black Kenyan boyfriend was kicked out of the hotel they had checked in since it was a foreigners' domain. Small scale tourism businessmen were also opposed to the ASC all inclusive policy since it did not allow its guests to patronise other outlets or buy souvenirs elsewhere. Kenya tour operators and travel agents were un happy since they had to disclose the colour and nationality of their guests before any hotel conformation was given.