Coast hoteliers cut rates by half to woo domestic tourists
By Joackim Bwana
Tourists disembark from Skyward Express airline after landing at Manda Airport in Lamu County from Mombasa. There has been an increase in the number of flights into Lamu following interest by local tourists in the ancient town. [Joackim Bwana]

Hoteliers along the Coast have cut rates by up to 50 per cent as they try to woo domestic tourists following crushing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. In September, hoteliers projected the sector will start to recover in the third quarter or December holidays, but the second wave of Covid-19 has dampened the hopes.

Multiple industry players interviewed by Travelog said they have opted to subsidise their rates to tap into the potential of the domestics market. Traditionally, the rates are high in December because of high demand from the locals travelling to the Coast for December holidays and foreigners escaping the winter seasons abroad. A spot check by Travelog showed that hospitality businesses in the Diani stretch that were overly dependent on the overseas market without regard for the domestic scene are indeed struggling.

Southern Palm Beach Resort General Manager, Mahmoud Alam Eldin, explains to Travelog the measures they have taken to stay in business in the face of the covid-19 pandemic that is still affecting most countries. [Joackim Bwana]

Southern Palms Beach Resort located in Diani, for instance, is one of the properties that has reviewed their rates downwards. According to General Manager Mr Mahmoud Alam Eldin, the beach property is offering an all-inclusive family package for spouses accompanied by children at more than half the previous rate.  Mr Eldin noted that while in the past the bulk of their clients were drawn from Europe and America, they had seen the importance of accommodating the domestic market and that is paying dividends.

Baobab Beach Resort General Manager Silvester Mbandi said the local market has been supportive and they have been operating at recommended capacity, especially during weekends. Mr Kipsang said that most of the guests who check in are family and couples even as he noted that they are at advantage compared to smaller players who cannot offer all-inclusive packages.

Neptune Beach Resort Operations Manager, Jackson Kifoto, opines the local tourists provide a stable base for the hoteliers as they navigate through the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We should look into the local market as our base and build into Africa and then Europe for stability,” said Kifoto.

Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) CEO, Dr Betty Radier (centre), joins in a jig during the launch of the Kenya Coast Brand Identity in Mombasa's Fort Jesus monument on October 29, 2020. [Kelvin Karani]

Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) on its part said the hoteliers have to re-model their business strategies to attract local tourists if they are to remain afloat.

“We should turn this pandemic into an opportunity for Kenyans to rediscover what their country offers in terms of tourism and unique experiences” said KTB Public Relations and Corporate Manager Wausi Walya.

It is for this reason that KTB  on October 29, 2020 launched the Kenya Coast Tourism Brand Identity (KCWG) initiative that seeks to reposition the Kenyan Coast as a tourism destination of choice. This is in support of the bid by Kenya Coast Tourism Association to showcase the unique tourism experiences each region has to offer. New logos for each coastal destination to match the recently re-launched Magical Kenya logo were also unveiled.The logos showcase the different experiences possible in Diani, Lamu, Malindi, Mombasa, Tsavo and Tana River and Watamu.

She said the recent statistics indicate that more Kenyans were travelling and that the agency hopes that the numbers will continue to go up during the traditional December holiday. Some of the areas recording high numbers of local tourists include Masai Mara and other destinations along the Coast region.

 “The Kenya Coast, from the south to the north, provides an identity for the region and make the traveller yearn to experience what each of them offers,” said Wausi.

Kenya Tourism Board Public Relations and Corporate Manager, Wausi Walya, pictured on Lamu's Manda beach recently. [Joackim Bwana]

She said the initiative by Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala in collaboration with the private sector seeks to nurture and compliment all the regions rather than competing with each other.

Wausi urged visitors to focus more on experiences offered by the different regions than getting confined in the hotels.