07-03-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo
Hoteliers on the Kenyan coast have no intention of "letting their hair down" or if they do, they are creating events and improving services.
As the leaders of the trade associations have repeatedly pointed out, the tourism crisis linked to the pandemic has led to a drop in attendance and consequent earnings in the sector of up to 75%, but above all, it has reduced the duration of the high season and "full" days.
It is very clear that, especially in coastal resorts that have always relied on mass tourism, with historic hotels that have more than 70 rooms and can even reach 200 (the highest concentration is in Mombasa, in the northern area of the beaches of Nyali, Bamburi, Shanzu and Bombolulu), it is not possible to keep a structure open for long, either completely or at least ready to receive only 20 per cent of its capacity.
But at the same time, as several hoteliers noted in a recent virtual meeting with the Ministry of Tourism, one cannot have a price war, lowering rates to try to attract more customers.
"Rather we stay closed and dedicate ourselves to improving the structure, with extraordinary maintenance work,' explained the marketing manager of a well-known Bamburi hotel, one of the largest on the coast, which works not only with Kenyans but also with many Europeans, Chinese and Indians, 'even if sometimes staying closed costs even more than reopening. Tourists too must understand that in addition to the damage caused by Covid-19, we cannot accept the insult of having to reduce our prices, when our expenses are higher".
In Watamu and Malindi too, many hoteliers have decided not to reopen and to take advantage of the unfortunate period to renovate or rethink future strategies. This is the case of Jacaranda Resort and Eden Village (the latter with an ambitious renovation programme), and Garoda Resort in Watamu, and Kilili Baharini in Malindi.
Other well-known hotels have reopened, but not all have decided to cater for prospective guests by adapting special packages or unmissable offers. Rather, they are adapting services, with lunches organised as if they were dinners, with music and entertainment, excursions included in the packages, festivals with music until dawn (for hotel clients, considering the curfew an "external" measure and to convince even residents to book a room for night-time entertainment).
This last solution in Mombasa is becoming a new frontier of nightlife: guests enter the hotel at 9 p.m., perhaps in good company or even among friends and groups, book a room (with a symbolic price if they will not be using it), eat something in the snack bar or restaurant and then enjoy the disco until 4 a.m. Taxing.
In Watamu, after the successful debut of Temple Point last week, the Seven Island Resort, with the fabulous Paparemo beach, has organised a Festival from 12 to 14 March with numerous Deejays and continuous fun situations, especially for those who book the whole weekend, at decidedly competitive prices.
"Watamu has the potential to be the "queen" of the Kenyan coast: the beauty of its beaches and nature is captivating, the presence of hotels and high-level activities favours quality hospitality, and it's time to offer opportunities for recreation and fun even in this period of limitations, hoping soon to do even better. Unfortunately, the institutions do not support us enough in our efforts and the proposals we put forward are not taken into consideration".
Either closed and working to present themselves even more attractive, or open and proactive: these are the two philosophies of those who want to continue operating in the tourism sector in Kenya or are forced to do so because of their investments in professionalism. In both cases, hopefully successful.
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