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Why Kenyan hotels won awards despite woes

REAL ESTATE
By Mkala Mwaghesha | July 30th 2015
Sarova Whitesands Beach Hotel and Spa; Section of Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort and Spa hotel in Mombasa County.

NAIROBI: The local tourism industry has been in turbulent times recently with world renowned hotels closing down, or reducing their staff contingent after western countries issued travel advisories over insecurity.

These advisories, coupled with a number of high profile terrorists attacks have pushed tourists away.

But all is not lost it seems. Key players in the country were feted in the just-concluded 22nd World Travel Awards (Africa) in Seychelles indicating a superior industry that still has some of the best facilities.

The travel awards, which celebrate and awards entities in the hospitality and tourism industry globally, awarded the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) as Africa’s Tourism Board of the year for the fourth time in a row, a factor that insiders lauded.

“We need to acknowledge the efforts of KTB in marketing Kenya,” said the CEO of Kenya’s Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers, Mike Macharia.

“If you consider the budget constraints that KTB has in comparison to other global tourism boards, it is doing us proud.”

 CONTINENTAL WINNERS

These sentiments were shared by Mohammed Hersi, the CEO of Heritage Hotels and chairman of the Coast Tourism Association.

“KTB is doing us proud in a very challenging global market. The board is marketing Kenya regardless of many challenges including a tight budget,” he said.

Other notable continental winners included Kenya Airways (Africa’s leading airline), Masai Mara National Reserve (Africa’s leading national park), Nairobi Serena Hotel (Africa’ leading green hotel), the Port of Mombasa (Africa’s leading cruise port) and Diani Beach (Africa’s leading beach destination).

The approval will be much appreciated as a vote of confidence in an industry that has been struggling following insecurity problems experienced in Kenya.

According to the General Manager of Nairobi Serena Hotel Daniel Kang’u, the continental nod of approval was not a surprise for the management.

“We are very ‘green’ in our approach. We try to preserve the environment and incorporate the culture around us into the design of our (Serena) hotels,” he said.

Macharia explained that the troubles currently facing the industry are not a factor when it comes to awarding excellence.

“The World Travel Awards happen annually whether there is a glitch in a country’s hospitality industry or not,” he said.

“The idea is to award standards, excellence and effort that players in the tourism sector put in their services. There can be problems, like what is currently being experienced, but the product is still good.”

Kenya’s position in the global hospitality market has been strong, exhibited by the entry of high-end global franchises locally, including the Villa Rosa Kempinski, Best Western Hotel, Sankara and Tribe.

 CONFIDENCE

“That shows the confidence that the global market has in the country as an investment destination,” said Mr Macharia.

For the discerning global customer who looks out for the best, the hotels have tried to stay ahead of the pack.

“Proper infrastructure involves making sure every guest leaves with a smile,” Mr Kang’u told Home & Away. “They want to stay in a non-intrusive environment. The service has to be up to international standards.”

Mr Hersi explained that such awards, which are also determined by travellers, rely most on customer experiences.

“Most visitors choose to come back because the Kenyan experience is something to behold. Visitors rate Kenya as one of the best tourist destinations and the awards show that,” he said of the awards that are determined by over 650,000 individual voters who are largely travel professionals and high-end tourism consumers.

According to the website, the awards seek to ‘support, promote and develop the global travel and tourism industry by identifying and rewarding excellence and inspiring its practitioners to continually raise the standards of their product and service offering.’

With the traditional tourist market taking a wide berth especially in the Coast, the hospitality industry has benefited from global events that have taken place locally.

Apart from the Global Entrepreneurship Summit that had among others US President Barack Obama in attendance, Kenya has hosted the First Ladies of African countries for the 9th ‘Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa’ Conference. The Pope is set to visit later in the year.

Hotels in Nairobi and other cities saw considerable business during Obama’s visit.

“There is a high level of professionalism in the hospitality industry and that shows the importance we give to our esteemed customers,” said Hersi.

“An institution like Utalii College is highly rated at churning out professionals who can stand toe-to-toe with the best across the globe.”

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