Coronavirus disinformation affecting business, travel agents say

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Travellers queue in front of a thermal scanner. Local travel agents say travellers are cancelling their trips to Kenya following the outbreak of the new coronavirus. PHOTO | PIUS UTOMI EKPEI | AFP

Local travel agents have called on the online community to stop circulating disinformation on the new coronavirus.

The agents say misleading information on the virus that has cause worldwide panic is affecting their business.

The Kenya Association of Travel Agents (Kata) Thursday said travellers from various parts of the world are cancelling their trips to Kenya.

“We are calling on travellers to engage directly with Kata certified travel agents for credible and factual information to guide their travel decisions,” said Kata chairman Mohammed Wanyoike.

He said that the travel industry has recorded a decline of six percent in bookings in February and 10 percent in March following the outbreak of the disease.

“We are expecting the number of travellers to drop in the short-term as the travel restrictions come into effect to key markets and destinations as witnessed to China, South Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Italy,” he said.

He said the sector is one of the most hard hit by the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

“There has been cancellation of major conventions and events in cities, leading to a major decline in passenger numbers and revenues for the travel agents in Kenya,” he added.

Mr Wanyoike said Kata is guiding travellers about available options and providing recommendations for either rerouting their travel itinerary to an alternative destination or re-booking to another date.

He said the agents are anticipating that business will resume to normal during the second half of the year.

Kata Treasurer Joseph Githitu said some more staff in the sector will be sent on leave.

“Although we don’t foresee any layoffs, when there will be low volumes of business, we are seeing a scenario where workers will be going on leave as a way of managing staff,” said Dr Githitu.

Kata in a statement noted that all International Air Transport Association accredited airlines operating in Kenya have conformed with passenger safety standards set by IATA and World Health Organisation.

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