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Domestic tourism taking root

NAIROBI, October 13 – A new domestic tourism marketing strategy targeting corporate groups has started paying off for the Sarova chain of hotels.

Assistant Manager for Sarova Taita Hill and Sarova Saltlick Game lodges Ephantus Maina has told Capital Business that the chain’s market share had risen by 10 percent in the last one year, thanks to the strategy, that entailed introducing affordable packages for groups.

“Usually it’s very hard to attract local tourists especially to the bush lodges, since they really are not convinced on the need to go to the wild to see animals, so we approach a corporate firm and offer affordable rates for team building, conferences or seminars. The corporates are finding this very attractive and really taking it up” he said, blaming the lack of an aggressive domestic tourism marketing strategy as the reason why it was still lagging behind the international market.

Mr Maina explained that once the staff visited their facilities, they plan for return visits with their families. He however observed that 70 percent of overall bed occupancy bookings are still mostly by foreigners.

He noted that the domestic tourism market has been a hard nut to crack due to ‘un-informed’ travelling and booking habits by locals who usually wait until the last minute.

The Sarova group has in the meantime expressed satisfaction with the performance of the two new additions to their chain – Taita Hills Lodge and Saltlick lodge both located within the Taita Hills wildlife Sanctuary. They were acquired by the chain under a management contract early last year.

Mr Maina said the two properties recorded a combined occupancy rate of 43 percent in their first year of operation.

“This year we are expecting to close with 12 and 18 percent; you can see we are going down due to the post election violence but from January we are expecting Taita Hills to be doing at least 80 percent per day throughout the year,” he noted.

Saltlick will also be expecting a higher occupancy of 40 percent.

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“We are hoping to do 30 percent occupancy for both lodges for the rest of year, and as long as we have no violence or any catastrophic happenings, I think we will ride the economic crunch and achieve a turnaround next year as predicted by the Kenya Tourism board,” the hotel manager observed.

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