A grim picture has recently been presented in a survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS); that of a whooping seven million Kenyans currently unemployed with only 1.4 million desperately looking for work. The dire times have resulted in the other 5.6 million giving up on job hunting altogether.
In a country where nine in every 10 unemployed Kenyans are 35 years and below, the survey depicts a desperate unemployed youth. A huge chunk of these are aged between 20 and 24 years and are not engaged in any work or business.
However, not all is bad news in the KNBS report. The unemployment rate for the entire population has come down to 7.4 per cent from 9.7 per cent in 2009 and 12.7 per cent in 2005. Additionally, 19.5 million Kenyans are active in the workforce albeit majority of them being in low-cadre, poor-paying jobs.
Can the hospitality industry salvage the horrific unemployment numbers in Kenya especially among the youth?
The industry is not only a multifaceted sector that contributes to a variety of economic activities but is also labour intensive and thus a major generator of employment, accounting for about 9 per cent of total formal employment in 2017.
As is the case in many other developing countries, the hospitality industry is a key driver of Kenya's socio-economic development. As such it is important for job seekers and entrepreneurs to understand each sector before venturing into it for employment.
1. Travel and Tourism
This sector involves providing a memorable vacation experience and transportation - flights, train, public service vehicles, off-road car hires etc.
Kenya is well endowed with a variety of touristic points of interest ranging from white sandy beaches to national parks, museums, and mountains. These attractions consequently drew 1.4million foreign visitors in 2017 with 68% of them having travelled for leisure.
Being the chief segment, every 30th visitor that comes into this country creates a job for a Kenyan. The ratio is however 1:50for local tourists. Jobs created by travel & tourism require hands-on approach, top-notch efficiency and exceptional customer service. These include but not limited to chauffeurs, pilots, flight attendants, tour guides, porters, travel advisors among others.
In 2016, domestic travel expenditure stood at 62% resulting into increased bed-night occupancy by 11%. Moreover, KNBS indicates that 187,000 East African residents stayed at the country's game reserves and lodges against 176,500 foreign residents over the same period.
The change in demographic has given rise to a variety of accommodation facilities that were previously limited to resorts, hotels, bed and breakfast and lodgings. This sector now includes furnished rentals, aparthotels, campgrounds, touristic villages and vacation complexes.
Jobs in the accommodation sector require people skills with extraordinary customer service. This prompts good reviews, high recommendation and repeat customers.
3. Food and Beverage
This sector offers the bulk of employment especially in a culinary destination like the coast of Kenya. F&B can be a separate or an integral component of the hospitality industry as it takes any shape ranging from independent catering establishments to a small section of an establishment such as a movie or a kids' play area.
Within the accommodation sector, F&B reigns supreme in employment. Whether the lodging is a holiday rental or an affluent hotel, the services of a chef that can offer excellent food and a waiter who serves with world-class customer service, are required.
In 2017, the hospitality industry supported 1.1 million jobs (9% of total employment), and by end of 2018 the employment rate is expected to rise by 3.1%; according to a Jumia Hospitality Report.
Regardless of the sector, without proper customer service, any business in the hospitality industry might as very well head downhill. The way the personnel serves the clients is a paramount determinant of the level of success of the industry in Kenya.