Nakuru Carves Out Its Business Tourism Niche
After a 32km drive from the sparsely populated and serene Elementaita into Nakuru town, a huge post filled with directions to various new restaurants, lodges and resorts greets you.
The developments indicate a growing preference for hospitality facilities that feature silent, secluded, luxurious and relaxing locations for either business functions or vacation.
In the period between 2009 and 2014, more than ten luxurious hotels and resorts sprung up away from the busy Nakuru town taking advantage of the growing number of the tourists seeking accommodation while en-route to tourist sites in the Central and South Rift region.
For business conferences, a peaceful environment free from automotive distractions is major consideration for companies and organisations.
State of the art conference facilities have are a booming business for the hoteliers, especially in Nakuru, which has become a cost-effective alternative for multi-national and high capacity conferences.
An increasing number of investors are scouting for the pieces of land away from the congested Nakuru town, going as far as Elementaita and Ndundori to meet the changing needs of the clients.
In these areas, a 50 metre by 100 metre plot goes for not less than Sh2 million and the prices are soaring at a two to three- fold rate.
TRANQUILITY AND PRIVACY
“Corporations with conferences now prefer quiet places away from the town where they can stay and have their discussions without much disturbance,” says Mr Paul Gacheru, a manager at the newly established Sentrim Elementaita Lodge.
He says 90 per cent of their business tourists previously held conferences in hotels in Naivasha. The lodge lies along the shores of Lake Elementaita providing exotic scenery of the dazzling flamingo carpet which according to Mr Gacheru is attracting foreign tourists who previously frequented Naivasha.
While the tourists in Mombasa can enjoy a walk along the beach, in Elementaita, they have a private space to disconnect from life’s hustle and have a closer connection with nature while enjoying a full view of the lake.
“We get tourists making connections to Lake Nakuru National Park and Maasai Mara Game Reserve. A number of them were customers at hotels or lodges in Naivasha,” he says.
However, conferences are a huge part of the lodge’s appeal. Its busy months range from February to December when it is fully booked.
Tourist arrivals keep fluctuating with the peak months falling between June and December.
“But the demand for conference halls within the serene environment is high and that is why there is an urge to explore rather secluded sites for establishing the facilities,” he says.
For Mr Elijah Matibo, the huge demand for the accommodation services in an environment characterised with tranquility and privacy pushed him to set up the Lanet Matfam Resort.
“In my interaction with tourists I came to learn that they were in need of hotels away from the noisy and congested Nakuru town. And so I decided to take the advantage,” says Mr Matibo, the proprietor of the resort which is eight kilometres away from Nakuru town.
He says although the terror attacks have scared away many tourists, the loyal visitors very familiar with Kenya’s geography know Nakuru as a safe place for visits and holidaying.
“I have visitors from USA who keep coming despite the warning because they know Nakuru is safe and has very many places they can visit,” says Mr Matibo whose resort began offering services in 2011.
From Nakuru, not only can the tourists make their way to Nakuru National Park to see the rare white and black rhinos, Lakes Nakuru and Elementaita are home to beautiful flamingoes.
Tourists can also access the historical Hyrax hills or Hells Gate to explore caves, hike and enjoy the beauty of the flora and fauna.
Mr Matibo says that Mombasa which has been most affected by tourism advisories has seen a decline in numbers but this has resulted lucrative ground for advancement in Rift Valley which is off the beaten path.
“Nakuru is a great alternative for tourists. Those who cannot have their conferences in Mombasa and Nairobi are now coming to Nakuru. This is a good opportunity for hospitality growth in the county,” he notes.
Already, Nakuru governor Kinuthia Mbugua has given an indication of developing potential tourist sites across the county to expand the leverage for luring visitors.
Mr Mbugua has called on the county representatives to identify areas of attraction in their locations to facilitate planning for developing the tourism and trade facilities.