Niche products, creativity will help Kenya reap from changing global hospitality trends
(A guest post by Michael Metaxas, General Manager of the Dusit D2 in Nairobi)
Kenya has had its fair share of challenges that have negatively impacted the hospitality and tourism industry in the recent past as witnessed in the decline in tourist arrivals and revenues between 2012 and 2014. Despite positive predictions a further declined in 2015 to 778,771 tourist compared to 861,396 in 2014.
The high profile visits in Kenya in 2015 and the lifting of travel warnings have not help boost the incoming travelers to the expected numbers, even though it has partially instilled trust in the country.
Boutique hotels began appearing in 1980s in major cities like London, New York and San Francisco, where their popularity has prompted multinational hotel companies to try and capture the market share. These hotels are furnished in a themed, stylish and/or aspirational manner with key focus on personalized service as opposed to mass hotels where a lot of people walk in and out.
Although not new in other parts of the world, Kenya has a huge potential in developing more boutique hotels, that if supported through appropriate investments in physical infrastructure and out-of-the box promotional activities can increase considerably the contribution of hospitality sector to the economy.
With the age bracket of people willing to spend becoming lower, some players in the hospitality industry are following consumer trends with affordable or budget boutique hotels being created all around the world. They are also found in resort destinations with exotic amenities such as electronics, spas, yoga and/or painting classes and are competing for the Generation Y business as increasingly sophisticated young travellers look for homier comforts of posh hotels.
To capture the demands of this market, hoteliers must forever strive to strike new boundaries by offering variety and being more aggressive in use of technology, entertainments and other funkier ways that appeal to the millennial.
The rapid developments in technology where mobile phones no longer being seen as an emerging technology, getting attention of these tech savvy visitors will require more innovative approaches within the technological sphere like real time social media and remote engagement to reflect things taking place in the hotel.
Kenya as the tourist and economic hub in East Africa must also aggressively promote itself as a destination of choice to the rest of the world by participating in international events either in tourism or sports as the main sponsor.
The Government has already done some great things such as reduction of visa and park entry fees and waiving visa for children to promote tourist arrivals, but this will only make a huge difference if investment in infrastructure and security is also scaled up.
The road system is still a major challenge as it takes visitors more than two hours from the airport to reach hotels due to long traffic snarl-ups.
As an AmCham Tourism Committee Member our scope is to liaise with Government agencies to promote Kenya travel and tourism across the board under a unified message.
In doing so we are in the process of developing a 5-year plan for tourism job growth and increased contribution to the GDP.
Kenya remains a fantastic country and is amongst the ten top countries searched in the internet. In 2015, we had 3.6 million monthly Internet queries about Kenya. Interesting is that 900k originated from Kenya, 700k from UK, 600k from USA, 600k from Germany and 300k from Italy.
The writer is the General Manager of DusitD2 Hotel in Nairobi and a member of the American Chamber Tourism Committee.