28-10-2019 by Freddie del Curatolo
Those who live and work on the Kenyan coast, every year during this period are preparing for the arrival of the high season and usually ask themselves and ask themselves what it will be like.
It is not only an Italian habit and only malindina or watamense, it is also a topic of conversation between Indian or Swahili traders of the boutiques of Mombasa, in the local and foreign safari agencies of Diani, between those who organize transfers and those who rent houses or rooms in Kilifi and Mtwapa, the owners of restaurants, small restaurants, bars and kiosks, even the beach boys who roam the beaches.
It is clear that the two destinations mentioned above are the most frequented and the most dependent on seasonal tourism, for the presence of many resorts that still focus on holiday packages and tour operators, but also for a good number of repeaters and owners of houses and villas.
Maybe it's because for almost twelve years I've been mainly involved in tourism and I'm "on the news", but the fatal question to Malindi and Watamu is addressed to me by everyone, as if I had the faculty to read in the crystal globe that has an arrow shaped vein that starts from Europe, and especially from Italy, and comes just below the Equator ... better if braking abruptly just before Zanzibar.
Well, here's an answer for everyone, a link to use when the requests are numerous.
What season will be the one between 2019 and 2020?
The forecast is that it will not be dissimilar from the previous one, so of settlement compared to past years in which there was a slow recovery after 2013 and 2015, years of terrorist attacks in Kenya (in Nairobi and Garissa) and economic crisis in Italy.
According to the Kenyan Minister of Tourism Najib Balala, the general numbers of this year will be better, with tourists increasing between 5 and 10%. In my opinion, these projections are real but take into account the influx in the capital Nairobi, which has increased fairs, events and international conferences, where even anyone arriving from abroad and staying for a short time is considered and counted as a tourist, and in the large parks of the Rift Valley.
As for the coast, we witnessed a flattering August but also a vertical fall in attendance in September and October.
This aspect concerns more and more those who focus on Italian and European customers and are not looking for other forms of marketing and promotion, not only within the country but also addressed to other African countries, especially those that do not have the outlet to the sea.
Clearly, tourism favours weekends or holidays, but how many hotel owners or managers have targeted promotion programmes in this sense?
We have been offering this kind of advice for some time and every now and then we are called for specific campaigns, but many think to do (and do well) on their own because they have the profile Instagram, the Facebook page and have registered on Booking.com. If only that were enough.
How many people go to see when the national holidays of Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda fall and maybe set up a campaign on local websites or newspapers just before that period?
Or do they rely on agencies in that country for good percentages?
How many in Malindi and Watamu are changing the way they propagandize their structure and consequently their destination?
Bearing in mind that looking only at the Italian market does not pay off, this will also be a season of transformation, useful to internationalize Malindi and to divide Watamu between those who can still afford to live only "all incentive" tourism and those who need and want to open up.
The resort and sea holiday, now concentrated mainly in the area of Jacaranda Bay and managed by the duopoly Alpitour-Uvet, promises good occupancy rates at Christmas, but it is not yet known how long the queue that leads to Easter can be.
Those who have converted tourist villages into condominiums or large private homes in boutique hotels can count on the "winterers", who pay increasing rents but always competitive (especially with the winter savings on heating in Italy ...). Many of them are pensioners who now consider Malindi and Watamu a second home or the Riviera of yesteryear. Every year, some are missing, others are less inclined to put their noses around, but often they stop even 4 or 5 months and move the so-called "induced", creating jobs in terms of staff on duty and the like and attend supermarkets, restaurants, fresh fish dealers and pharmacies.
In short, in the absence of anything else and waiting for new impulses, it is better to have them (if respectful, relaxed and perhaps not to the point) than to have to give them up.
Flight chapter: from this month on Mombasa arrive two Air Italy charters, which actually work as scheduled flights, even for reservations.
The company sells freely and the prices for now are competitive. Just the lack of competition, given the small number of companies on Mombasa, is the main reason for the prices still too high in the high and very high season. For this reason, requests from other companies are hoped for. The five weekly flights to Qatar since December are good news from this point of view, as is the interest of British Airways in a return, even after the bankruptcy of the most important British tour operator, Thomas Cook.
Ethiopian continues to land twice a day from Addis Ababa and Turkish one, with related connections to Europe. The Ethiopian national airline, also this year awarded as the best of the Black Continent, would also like the route Addis-Malindi. This would be a real blow for the tourism industry and new possibilities for direct markets. But this year it is still not being discussed, as unfortunately we do not see the light outside the tunnel of adaptation of the international airport of Malindi, which should now be called Penelope.
In short, the season will once again depend on the pockets of those who have already rented villas and apartments in Malindi, which are almost all sold out, as well as domestic flights from Nairobi in the period between December 21 and January 11, and from Kenyans on holiday in their August, which is the month of December, when schools and many offices close. To attract the latter to Watamu and Malindi, rather than to Diani or Mombasa, it is necessary to make the destinations live, to create events, in short, even with the water in the throat of always, to invest and above all to be found positive and proactive.
Otherwise, it's better to close the shack, sell it or rent it to those who may have new ideas, are more attentive to the market or have more desire to do.
And go to the beach, if it stops raining.
The season that has already gone beyond all expectations, for tourism in Kenya, will be good at least until the week of Easter.
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