Kenya counts losses but looks at the future

KENYA TOURISM TAKES STOCK AS YEAR END NEAR

Tourism stakeholders in Kenya are taking stock ahead of the end of the year, with January to October data suggesting an overall ‘loss’ of approximately 2 percent in arrivals compared to the previous record breaking year of 2010. Data received here, and originating at the tourist board in Nairobi, show a decline of over 23 percent in arrivals for the Kenya coast, which has led to considerable hardship for a number of beach resorts, struggling to stay afloat. While some, with regional reach and appeal like the Sarova Whitesands or the Mombasa Serena are doing well above average, demand for their services propelled by regionwide marketing and airline links, others are said to be doing well below average as they fail to make an impact with travelers from for instance Uganda or Rwanda, who are seeking assured quality and regularly opt for a recognized brand name rather than taking a leap into the unknown.

Nairobi arrivals in contrast were up by 3 percent, driven by increased business and conferencing arrivals, as marketing the MICE segment was successfully executed by KTB in the recent past.

Figures expected for the full year will still show a reduced level of revenues and arrival numbers, belying the tourism minister’s past assurances that 2012 will be another record year.

Said a regular coast tourism source: ‘Mombasa and Malindi are showing a very mixed picture. Some resorts are doing very well because they build a name and managed to attract a lot of domestic business. Word of mouth and social media but also TripAdvisor comments are helping them a lot. Other resorts need to learn how to get into those media and networks. They need to invite journalists and get articles but then, some are not sure themselves how they perform over time and might fear a negative review. We now have Turkish flying to Mombasa 5 times a week, Ethiopian comes daily so there is opportunity to join hands and market a resort. Air Uganda comes every day and RwandAir a few times too. Again, there are opportunities to market by putting out packages. There is business out there. Some know how to find it and tap it and others just lament and quarrel a lot. This is the challenge for them, I say don’t be shy to copy good marketing concepts. And we cover all market segments in Mombasa. From 5 star luxury, first class boutique hotels, private villas, bed and breakfast and even self catering, on and off the beach, visitors with all budgets can find something in Mombasa’.

The grand re-opening of the Leopard Beach Resort and Spa, aka CHUI tomorrow is also expected to raise additional interest from the media as the timing has ingeniously been set to be 12.12 hrs pm on the 12th of December 2012, with a clocked countdown, great fanfare and all the coastal trimmings one can expect for a party of this kind. Chris Modigell, hotel consultant for the CHUI and arguably Kenya’s best known hotelier, par excellence that is, expressed his confidence to this correspondent that the re-entry of the resort after a 6 months closure for a complete rebuilding, will generate its own momentum and draw in overseas visitors, after retaining the World Travel Awards top ranking for a beach resort in Kenya for the third year running.

Are there still rooms to be had over the festive season? If at all, they will be selling like hot cakes so this is the time to book, airline seats on Kenya Airways, Air Uganda and the likes included, to be sure of a Christmas or New Year holiday worth to remember.

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