How Coast tourist spots are strategising for sector rebound

Wednesday, October 20th, 2021 00:00 |
Beach operators celebrte at the Pride Inn Paradise Hotel beach after graduating. Photo/PD/BONFACE MSANGI

It’s no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has badly slowed down the multi-billion tourism sector growth in the country.

In the Coast region, several hospitality establishments have since closed down, sending thousands of workers on unpaid leave, a situation that was deepened by the nationwide curfew, lockdowns and cessation of movements.

However, the situation has ostensibly opened another window for innovation, that includes adopting new marketing strategies in order to attract available tourists and help the businesses to stay afloat.

The Coast, which boasts numerous sandy beaches, entertainment joints, tourist attraction sites, hotels and lodges, has started rebranding itself inline with the new business dynamics, thanks to the prolonged pandemic.

In Mombasa county, the tourism department has embarked on training thousands of beach operators to align them with current situations and also equip them with knowledge on handling tourists at the beaches.

The training seeks to ensure sanity in the beach, as a key destination and end perennial harassment of tourists while strolling at the beach.

The region anticipates influx of guests ahead of end of year festivities.

Kenya Coast Tourism Association (KCTA) chief executive officer Julius Owino hailed the Mombasa county government for training about 300 beach operators on matters of public relations. They graduated on Monday after completing the training.

“We have trained 300 beach operators and we are going to have another 300 starting solar energy training next month because we are targeting about 2,000 of them by the end of this year,” said Owino, during an event held at the Pride Inn Paradise Hotel.

Redeeming the prestige

KCTA chairman Victor Shitakha said it was time the county redeemed its reputation, as tourists harassment had tainted the image of the destination.

“Tourists harassment at the beach has been notorious, but with the training of beach operators, we anticipate sanity at the beach,” he said.

Cosmos Oloo, one of the beach operators who was among the graduates, applauded the county government for coming up with the initiative, saying it has empowered him with public relations experience.

Mombasa county tourism chief officer Asha Abdi said the training covers customer care, financial management, entrepreneurship, marketing, code of conduct and ethics, team building, product development and management.

“We are doing the training in phases, with phase one targeting around 300 people.

We have partnered with Technical University of Mombasa in the programme to ensure all trained personnel get certification,” she says.

The county, in partnership with tourism stakeholders, has also established tourist exhibitions dubbed ‘Mombasa Foodies Festival’ to woo more tourists to the newly refurbished Mama Ngina Waterfront.

In the north Coast circuit, which forms parts of Kilifi, Malindi, Lamu and Tana River, tourism players have introduced new packages targeting domestic tourists aimed at keeping the destination vibrant.

The new packages range from sports, special buffet for families, hiking, and boat riding among others, offered by hotels and tour operators in Malindi and Watamu.

According to Maureen Awuor, the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) North Coast region chairperson, the introduction of affordable and attractive packages has kept five hotels operational in Malindi during the pandemic, after several others closed down due to low business.

Among the establishments repositioning themselves to reap from the recovery strategies is the Malindi Golf Club.

It is the latest to benefit from Stableford Golf Competition held at the club in partnership with Diamond Dream of Africa Resort to help in the recovery of tourism in the resort town. 

The Malindi Golf and Country Club chairman Tukero Ole Kina said the tournament was one of the big annual fixtures for golfers, featuring players from the Kenya Golf Society and Malindi Golf and Country Club.

“This brings together golfers of these particular groups from all over the country to Malindi, where we have an active golf course from about 1962,” he said.

Ole Kina said such sports events are held to ensure visitors see the great facilities in the resort town, not only the golf course, but also the key beach destinations in Malindi.

“Tourism is facing a hard time due to the pandemic, but such events will give a chance for locals to make money as they bring people from across the country,” Kina said.

Tailor-made packages

Ocean Beach Resort and Spa in Malindi has also introduced a special package, offering a Sunday lunch buffet at Sh3,500 for families to attract more domestic tourists in the town.

Maureen Awuor, the resort’s general manager, says the introduction of such packages will help make the resort town vibrant again amid the pandemic.

“The Sunday brunch enables families to come and enjoy buffet, beach experience and swimming pool at affordable rates. Sunday is always a family day and this is a day we want to bring families together,” she says.

Awuor adds that although many hotels in Malindi and Watamu closed down due to the pandemic, those that remained operational depend mainly on conferencing, weddings and special packages for domestic tourists.

“Hotels relying purely on the international market were the most affected during the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

Even as they wait for the reopening of the international market, the special packages will enable locals to enjoy at affordable rates and keep business afloat,” she intimates.

Part of the strategies to revamp the sector is the remodelling of the famous Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach into a world-class beach facility.

The beach is closed to the public to pave way for remodelling. In the new plan, the beach popularly known as ‘Pirates’ will have modernised social amenities, sports facilities including beach volleyball courts, beach football pitches and an amphitheatre. 

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