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Kenya’s Hospitality Staff Forced to Hustle during Lockdowns

In early June, as international borders started to reopen and bookings surged, Kenya and many other countries in Africa experienced their steepest spike of coronavirus cases during the pandemic. With only 1 percent of the African continent fully vaccinated and the virus raging, several countries were forced to lock down or impose stringent measures against the virus. The drastic precautions to stop the spread crushed hopes for a revival in foreign tourism. Before the pandemic, Kenya was the third largest tourism destination in Africa, with tourism contributing $1.6 billion to the national economy and creating 1.1 million jobs, or more than 8 percent of the country’s employment. The coronavirus was disastrous: During the high season between July and October of last year, most bookings were canceled, causing layoffs and salary cuts, and many tour companies shut down. The loss of international tourism in Kenya and other East African nations, with little assistance from local governments or elsewhere, has decimated the livelihoods of thousands of travel and hospitality workers, who have had to take on odd jobs and borrow money to survive.