Of the many hosted buyers who attended the Magical Kenya Travel Expo last week in Nairobi, most knew that Kenya’s capital was also the country’s primary conferencing location, offering, besides the Kenyatta International Convention Centre a range of other meeting facilities, from the size of board rooms catering for 6 or 12 or even 20 people to some taking several hundred participants in theatre style seating, or less when using a different layout.
It also came as no surprise at all that those guests invited by the Kenya Tourism Board knew little else over and above that, an omission this article will try to set right.
For a while has there been talk to construct a second national convention center at the Kenya coast, and perhaps a third one at Kenya’s lake side city of Kisumu, both of which can be reached by air with multiple connections every day. The KICC is also the coordination office for promoting MICE business in the country, but again, there has been a lingering opinion that while that is being done, it focuses mostly on the known places like Nairobi and Mombasa and few other choices are offered unless specifically requested.
In contrast, local NGOs and corporates already patronize facilities outside those three cities and with just 100 kilometes on a fairly good road from the capital Nairobi, an hour’s drive once at the outskirts of the city along a scenic road into the Great African Rift Valley, Naivasha has in the recent past turned itself into a conferencing hub, almost unnoticed and yet providing all the right ingredients of a successful conference, including the lack of city distractions which may impact on the participants who succumbed to a long night out on the town.
Next door is the classic Lake Naivasha Country Club, a safari-style property unlike the villa style at the Enashipai, and I take even odds that both have their fans and aficionados. The Lake Naivasha Country Club has a main conference hall for up to 400 people but also offers additional break out rooms should those be required for separate sessions.
Further down the South Lake Road, the Naivasha Simba Lodge can be found, which rose to fame as the venue for the Sudan – South Sudan peace talks from which a peace treaty arose leading to 6 years of semi autonomy for the South and then the independence vote.
The Enashipai and the Lake Naivasha Country Club, located almost as neighbors, have captured the essence of conference and incentives tourism perhaps the best and do accept groups larger than they can accommodate, knowing that the resort next door will be happy to accommodate the overflow, and vice versa of course without squabbles over rates or fears that the other party would begin to ‘steal business.’
This form of competition through cooperation, to first increase the cake of conferences coming to the lake area before sharing it, is vital in order to succeed and relations are cordial even when going into the market place to hard sell events to come to Lake Naivasha.
Both resorts also have spas, that vital element today to be able to bring spouses along for such trips and add the wellness component into the itinerary and keep the ladies happy, while the male spouses of female conference participants can perhaps indulge in a game of golf or a spot of fishing in the lake.
With challenges remaining to fill the beds at the Kenya coast and having to deal with the lower occupancies in city hotels and game lodges, creative marketing is needed and new and emerging domestic destinations, especially when easy to reach from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, like the Lake Naivasha zone, can perhaps tip the scale when operators abroad make up their mind where to send their next incentive group to or where to hold their next convention or major conference abroad.