Africa: Kenya’s key drivers of hospitality industry

Christmas is here with us yet again and many people are planning adventures across the country. The travel and hospitality sector has been recognised for driving exports, providing foreign exchange and creating employment to thousands of Kenyans, supporting 1.1 million jobs (nine per cent of total employment) last year. With constant improvements, the hospitality sector’s trends in the country have changed rapidly in recent years, according to Kenya Tourism Board and Jumia Travel, an online travel agency

1. Sports tourism
Kenya is the home of some the greatest athletes in the world. Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) is promoting sports tourism, attracting sports enthusiasts with its repertoire of national and international sporting events. A number of marathons are hosted throughout the year at diverse locations ranging from the highlands to the beaches and even in the wild.
The annual Kenya Open Golf Tournament at Muthaiga Country Club has encouraged the growth of golf tourism. One of the best rugby competitions in the world, the annual Safari Sevens, is held in Nairobi. Water and beach sports are also quite popular in Kenya.
There are also good facilities for other sports such as football, cricket, polo, horse racing, volleyball, tennis and hockey. The other hit areas are snorkelling and water surfing.

2. Wedding tourism
Modern brides and grooms are on the lookout for exotic and beautiful locations to tie the knot. Since Prince William’s famous proposal to Duchess Catherine in Kenya, couples are attracted to the variety of options available here for a memorable wedding.

From beach to Maasai tribal wedding, couples can indulge in the most unique ceremonies. Wedding resorts offer convenient planning and management services. Some hotels also help newlyweds in marriage registration process.
Kenya is witnessing booming growth in global tourism. Abundant in natural beauty and rich in local culture, Kenya is a true delight for tourists searching for exceptional experiences.

3. Safari tourism
This one never gets old and it is a favourite for both local and international visitors. Agencies like KTB are constantly marketing new spots for travellers to unwind and view during holidays.

The web and local tour agencies are also keen in marketing the country to visitors so that they can have access to some of the best locations in the globe.
From photo safaris through the 19 national parks and game reserves to impressive scenery of the Great Rift Valley and Mt Kilimanjaro, Kenya has a lot to offer for the global tourists.

4. Domestic tourism
Kenya is observing increasing influx of domestic tourists. With rising per capita incomes and increased economic stability, the middle class has emerged as an important target for the tourism industry. In fact, 95 per cent of the bed nights spent by East African tourists within Kenyan hotels in 2012 were accounted for by Kenyans.

Facilities and amenities targeted towards locals are being offered at the leading hotels and resorts. A big hit remains the Coast area, especially South Coast, and Mt Kenya, in particular Nanyuki. The young middle class with available disposable income often team up and do such tours especially during Easter and Christmas festivities.

5. Family tourism
Adventurous tourists are looking for exciting experiences not only for themselves but also for their whole family. Family oriented safaris are finding many takers. Multi-generational holiday options are attracting many tourists, especially from the BRICS nations – Brazil, India, Russia, China and South Africa.

Child-friendly safaris and family tours are organised so that the entire group can experience the sights of the big five attractions of African safaris – elephant, rhino, leopard, lion and buffalo.

The young folk especially love parks and adventure centres which keeps them engaged and restful thus a must do for parents. The beauty of this concept is that it is timeless and fairly cost effective because of rebates and discountable rates dependent on locations.

6. MICE tourism
MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing and Exhibitions) tourism is a major segment of the tourism industry in Kenya. With increasing business tourism, hotels and resorts are also gearing up to offer all resources for successful business events on local and international levels.

While offering state-of-the-art facilities for customised business meetings, several hotels provide services for beach conferences.
These exclusive conferences take advantage of the numerous beaches on the Kenyan coast. Combining work with pleasure, they allow tourists to conduct business while enjoying a vacation.

7. Health and Wellness tourism
With lifestyle changes being witnessed every so often, health becomes a focal point. From food to drinks consumed, people have become more aware.
Wellness tourism as defined by the Global Wellness Tourism Economy report goes beyond the freedom from disease to a state of complete physical, mental and social well being.
Events such as Yoga Festival in Lamu is a good example in the market while the growing number of spas, developments centering on natural occurring springs and eco-friendly resorts that embrace the healing character of nature contribute to the country’s products.

8. Room deliveries
In-room shopping is becoming more of a norm than just a trend these days. Global hospitality leaders such as Virgin Hotels Group have introduced crisp in-room applications that allow guests to shop online, order and have their purchases delivered to their room.

Devices such as Handy, which is becoming more popular by the day enable guests to surf through catalogues of various products such as coffee houses, gift shops and transport services without leaving their room.
Convenience and speed of delivery will occupy core position in the marketing strategy of players looking to stay relevant through the years beyond.

9. Personal experience
In the last couple of years, shoppers across different economic spheres have exhibited great affinity for individual attention, as opposed to traditional mass marketing that is designed to appeal to general insights and consumer behaviour.

A market survey by Infosys – a consulting and outsourcing company – indicates that 86 per cent of consumers say that personalisation plays a big role in their purchase decision. This means that any provider and travel supplier who lags behind or becomes complacent runs the risk of losing the millennial spender.

With experience economy and resulting trends reshaping the marketplace, there is need for businesses to restructure in order to deliver individualised customer experience and invest resources towards keeping up with the evolving, savvy and very expressive customer.

10. Festival tourism
From the popular Zanzibar International Film Festival in Zanzibar to Durban’s Essence Festival, festivals are gaining fame as a motivation to travel. Add to the fact that most of these festivals do not necessarily fall in the peak seasons, and also that they happen on standard dates of the year, and the outlook can only get better.

The “importation” of festivals, such as the Rift Valley Festival in Kenya, which is a cue from Malawi’s Lake of Stars Festival, and the earlier mentioned Essence Festival which has been running in New Orleans for the last 20 years is case to prove that this promising trend is of positive impact to the tourism ratings of host destinations.

By Barry Silah

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