THE FESTIVE SEASON IS ‘BONANZA TIME’ FOR HOTELS BUT ALSO FOR THEIR CLIENTS
(Posted 18th December 2014)
The festive season is the time of year when hospitality businesses around the world are pulling out all stops to offer their customers special meals and special deals. It is no different here in East Africa though there are changes in the air this year.
Traditionally was the Kenya coast in most demand for the holiday season, rooms were going at a premium, if at all one could be secured in case of a late booking and from before Christmas till after New Year were often supplements charged which allowed the hotels to put on spreads at the buffet tables for lunch and dinner which for any intent and purpose meet the description that it snowed food and rained drinks, even along the sundrenched beaches of the Indian Ocean.
This year, occupancies at the coast are way down, few resorts will be lucky to hang out the signs of ‘fully booked’ and most will be left to rue their government’s relative inaction to revive coast tourism when closing December occupancies in the 50, 60 or if lucky the 80 percent region but not with the usual 100 percent.
Seemingly stepping up this year are the city hotels in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Kigali and Kampala, which have published special accommodation deals, in particular for the New Year period, allowing guests to revel into the wee hours, drink and be merry and then, without the risk of driving under the influence, simply step into the elevators of their chosen abode, the Serenas, InterConti, Kempinskis, Fairmont, Sheraton and this year for the first time the Dusit in Nairobi, exit on their floor and sleep in their room, if they can remember the room number that is in their inebriated state.
Smart hotel marketers created packages where the use of the gyms and sometimes even their Spa’s is included to work off the aftermath of heavy meals and overindulgence, but only to be ready for another day of feasting and indulging before the same cycle resumes.
Notably have security measures in the capitals been stepped up in past days as witnessed during recent visits to Dar es Salaam and Kigali, added security been deployed in Kampala and entrance for shoppers to the malls made even more secure with intense car and body checks at the entrances.
‘Christmas and New Year requires extra vigilance’ said a top security operative in Kampala on condition of anonymity to this correspondent. ‘Our boys are deployed, they patrol and secure key places to make sure our people are safe. Many Ugandans will travel upcountry to unite with their families in the villages. We urge them to stay sober and not drink before travelling. We also advise that they have rested and checked their cars so that they do not fall asleep on the wheel or their vehicles break down and create obstacles in the roads. For those who remain in Kampala, we are using all our resources to make sure everyone has a safe Christmas and New Year’.
Kampala’s leading hotels, the Kampala Serena and the Sheraton Kampala, are both in overdrive now, lobbies, facades and gardens decorated for the season and the colours of red and green visible everywhere as Kampaleans will join the global citizens on Christmas Eve to listen to corals, presented by Kampala’s leading church choirs, before guests can enjoy the complimentary Egg Nog or some spiced red wine, not to forget the cookies of course.
Special meal offerings include the traditional Christmas Turkey, Glazed Ham and of course the coup de grace at the end, the Christmas Pudding. Those were also put on sale in the pastry shops of the leading hotels, in the form of the traditional German Stollen as well as in the form of the traditional British edition of the same.
Both Sheraton and Serena are also using the time of year to embrace their favourite Community Social Responsibility projects and in particular Serena has again chosen to ‘Light up the faces of children’ besides lighting up the Christmas trees, remembering those less fortunate kids in orphanages who would otherwise have to go without the special meal on Christmas Day and without a present, small as it may be. Without such efforts at best they would crowd before a TV and watch the world celebrate with hungry eyes – Kampala’s and the region’s leading hotels are making sure that these kids have something to smile about too.
With just a week to go are the local dailies full of adverts, even smaller up country hotels proudly announcing what they have prepared for their guests, spelling errors and all. The email boxes are full of specials and the flyers are printed and are being distributed to guests frequenting the Sheraton and Serena as witnessed when visiting earlier in the week.
Of course there is no snow here in East Africa, apart from the tops of Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya and the Mountains of the Moon, nor are there any chimneys in most places other than perhaps in Uganda at the Equator Snows Lodge of GeoLodges in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains and in Kenya at the Fairmont Mt. Kenya Safari Club or the Aberdare Country Club, through which Santa could enter and fill the stockings. There are perhaps fire places in Nairobi, where it can get quite cold at night but not in Kampala where eternal summer weather prevails.
7 days to go as of today and may it be days of peace and holidays of tranquility and reflection in a world which appears more dangerous than ever before, not on the scale of the Cold War of old but on rather more personal levels where schools and markets are under threat as seen in recent days.
Wherever you go, be vigilant, be safe and enjoy the season’s offerings, here in Kampala, in Kigali, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, and on the islands in St. Denis, Port Louis, Antananarivo and of course in Victoria on the Seychelles’ archipelago. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and when the clock strikes midnight across our region’s time zones and elsewhere, a Happy New Year 2015.