Stakeholders in the tourism sector are optimistic that the sector will keep the momentum even after the end of last year’s holiday festivities.
Major Coast hotels registered up to 100 per cent bookings for Christmas and New Year celebrations as local and international visitors flocked to the region’s destinations for the festivities. Stakeholders are upbeat that the situation will last until the onset of the traditional low season in mid-April this year.
Traveller’s Beach Resort sales and marketing manager Wafula Waswa says foreign tourists confidence in Kenya has increased following the introduction of charter flight incentives by the government last year.
The festive season dawned after a prolonged political season in 2017 and has provided a lifeline for the hotels to recoup losses incurred during the electioneering.
“We performed averagely this year and we are optimistic that the growth will be sustained if relative peace experienced during the holiday is maintained. We are urging relevant authorities mandated with marketing the tourism destination to do so effectively to attract more international visitors,” says Wafula.
He credited the rise in numbers to improved security last month and the longer school holidays that enabled upcountry families to head for the Coast.
Coast region hotels offer more than 30,000 beds which accommodate tourists and can employ over 10,000 people at a time. The region controls more than 60 per cent of Kenya’s tourism industry, with over 250 hotels that target both local and international guests.
On Monday, fireworks lit the sky on various beaches and entertainment joints at the Coast where hundreds had gathered to celebrate the ushering in of the New Year 2019 in style.
Thousands of revellers in the entire coastal region flocked to public beaches, shopping malls to usher in the New Year in style as security was beefed up to the fullest. All public beaches and shopping malls in Mombasa were filled to capacity as holidaymakers from all over the country joined international visitors in enjoying their vacations.
At Jomo Kenyatta, Public Beach, Mombasa beach, Diani in the South Coast and at Marine beach in Malindi, families celebrated their holidays in style. Many admitted that they had never been to the night beach parties before.
Among the local tourists, we spoke to is Sheila Butt from Nairobi, who said guests from upcountry have stepped up visits to Mombasa and Diani because it’s safe, the beaches are clean and people can walk freely. “The Coast offers the best hospitality services and the region is always the favourite holiday destination for my family,” said Butt who was staying at Travellers beach resort in Mombasa.
Kenya’s tourism and hospitality industry have undergone challenges such as the uncertainty that surrounded the political landscape in 2017. PrideInn Group of Hotels Managing Director Hasnain said while businesses were affected by prolonged campaigns period in 2017 and sequence of terror threats and travel advisories in previous years, things slowly but surely limped back to normal towards the end of 2018.
“Last year has been by and large satisfactory for most hoteliers. The overall business in the region’s hotel and hospitality industry slightly dipped in 2017 because of prolonged politics and terror threats in preceding years. However, the scenario has significantly improved by over 20 per cent now,” said Noorani.
“The unified brand of TembeaKenya through the Kenya Tourism Board has certainly helped build awareness especially within the counties – a good initiative that must continue to receive indispensable support in 2019,” added Noorani.
In Nairobi, there had been a slowdown in business in November and December since holidaymakers during this period preferred Mombasa and other coastal towns as holiday destinations. “But thanks to a number of wedding bookings, corporate end-year parties as well as outside catering services. The overall business has grown during the year,” added Noorani.
A number of global and local conferences, including the 79th SKÅL International World Congress, the First Jumuiya Agribusiness and Blue Economy Investment Conference, among others, had a positive effect with room occupancy going up substantially during the year.
Coast hoteliers, on the other hand, have been challenged to invest in the complete upgrade of their facilities in an effort to attract high-end clientele. Competing destinations such as South Africa, Zanzibar and Mauritius have already put in place upgraded resorts.
“The past couple of years have seen a number of three-star hotels come up and are keeping the older ones on their toes. To achieve a competitive edge, industry players should not be contented and ignore investing in hotel upgrades which is fundamental to ensuring that we attract quality holidaymakers from across the globe,’’ said Victor Shitakah, PrideInn Coast Region General Manager.
Noorani has applauded the government’s strides in enhancing the industry in the promotion of domestic and international tourism which has taken off exponentially.