03-03-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo
The pandemic year for Kenya meant the almost total loss of international tourism.
From March to August 2020, the total closure of the borders removed any hope of a holiday for anyone outside the country, but it also severely limited internal travel, considering that in the first three months even hospitality activities were closed.
The reopening of the borders did not coincide with the resumption of tourism activities for almost all countries that supplied clients to Kenya, and the restrictions, including the quarantine on return and the curfew still in force, have not helped the sector to recover.
During the Christmas holidays, the country, particularly the coast, which in past years has counted up to 40% of its total revenue as coming from tourism, breathed almost entirely from local tourism. The same phenomenon is likely to occur for the forthcoming Easter holidays.
The Portal of Italians in Kenya in recent days has carried out a thorough survey, visiting the most important sites of online hotel reservations and evaluations (from booking to tripadvisor and so on) to understand what are the tastes, preferences, desires and complaints of the so-called "domestic tourism" on which for some time we must rely to continue to keep alive the activities that offer services related to holidays and stays.
At the top of the ratings for hotels visited during the Christmas and New Year holidays are swimming pools and wi-fi.
It is well known that guests living in and around Nairobi (but also those arriving from cities in Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, who were not few) prefer the swimming pool rather than the sea.
A large hotel structure with a "tiny swimming pool" is evaluated negatively, just as a boutique hotel where the indoor swimming space stands out in the middle of the garden is surprising. The care and supervision of the pool is also taken into account.
Today a hospitality establishment in Kenya, as in much of the world, cannot afford not to have wi-fi. Criticism from guests is especially directed at those hotels where free wireless is only present in public areas, or at the bar, or only in the rooms.
Wi-Fi by default and everywhere, that's what Kenyans want. And woe betide if you make them pay for it or grant it by the hour. The judgement will undoubtedly be negative.
Most of the complaints that hotel restaurants, and restaurants in general, even those not related to hospitality, receive concern the few items on the menu. Kenyans like to have a lot of choice, even if only by name, because they usually eat the same things and their tastes do not allow for much variation. But having the impression of being able to choose between international, local and ethnic menus always has a positive effect on lunches and dinners. Not forgetting a few "optional extras" that are indispensable for Kenyans, such as ketchup and spicy sauces. Portions are also important when it comes to Chips (many comments make it clear that this delicacy is a must) and desserts.
Great attention is paid to buffets: table service is better unless the buffet is really comprehensive. "Only two alternatives for the main course, really poor" is one of the most frequent comments. Many complain about the same, albeit more varied, menu all week.
There is a separate chapter for breakfast: Kenyans like sweet and savoury food, so woe betide if the alternative to croissants and jam is not presented, consisting of eggs and bacon, sausages and beans. And always have a wide choice of fruit juices.
Kenyans on holiday like to drink. Even if they have money to spend, they always turn up their noses when a management does not allow them to bring bottles of spirits or wine from home. They ask them to be understanding, especially during curfews. Otherwise, the criticism is directed at the bars (even outside the hotels that host them): on Tripadvisor, for example, establishments that have little choice of cocktails, a great passion, are penalised. Better a well-made strawberry daiquiri than a bottle of good wine, better a discount on a bottle of whisky than a choice of bubbles or foreign beers.
Most of the compliments (or criticisms, when there is no satisfaction) from customers about the accommodation are directed towards the size of the rooms or hotel suites. Furnishings are less important, and the comfort of a room is often assessed by its size. Cleanliness and punctuality of service are also held in high regard. It is important to find some comforts even if they are not used: air conditioning instead of fans qualifies a hotel more than anything else, but the size of the television and the connection to satellite channels broadcasting sport is also judged as an element of 'luxury'.
In conclusion, local tourists are young, they want to spend money, they like new things, but they are also well anchored in the tastes they have learned in the metropolis.
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