- Demand for hotel facilities in the town is about 4,000 guests yet only 2,000 can be hosted in a year
Billed as one of the fastest growing towns in east and central Africa, Mtwapa town’s nocturnal life – entertainment in bars and night clubs – has spawned a massive investment in conferencing.
Holding a conference at a beach hotel comes with its restrictions including being holed up within the precincts of the facility, a tradition that is fast fading with the growing number of young people employed in public and private institutions today.
Investors in property and real estate in Mtwapa – which thanks to its popular nightlife runs a 24-hour economy – are now putting their money in the lucrative conferencing segment to cash in on the growing demand.
When Mr Peter Mwara put up Danpark Hotel and Apartments with a bed capacity of 160 in 2008, he had no idea that in just a couple of months he could create a conference facility which can host 120 participants.
“Conference participants want to loosen up after a long day’s work and Mtwapa provides entertainment that cannot be compared with any other town around here,” says Mr Mwara, who due to demand, started investing in conferencing facilities only six months ago.
“The number of those asking for both accommodation and conference increased tremendously within a short period of time and we saw a business opportunity,” Ms Caroline Mwara, his daughter and Danpark general manager adds.
Mr Julius Kamau, proprietor of Club Lambada, one of the town’s popular night spots does not regret his decision to create three conference halls complete with all facilities including internet connectivity five months ago at a cost Sh6 million.
He can now accommodate 300 conference guests, something he did not think would happen five years ago when he established the complex which was initially a nightclub but has expanded to include a 120 bed capacity hotel – The Lambada Resort.
According to Mr Kamau, people no longer want to hold conferences in Mombasa Island due to its congestion and Mtwapa is becoming one of the preferred choices largely due its entertainment.
“The town is very popular with guests from Nairobi who prefer to come here rather than go to the beach hotels where they feel restricted.
After spending the whole day in the conference rooms they throw away their neck ties and jump into the swimming pool where they are served with a drink,” Mr Kamau says.
Combining accommodation, good food, swimming and conference facilities has become a major marketing tool for hotels in Mtwapa which is strategically located as one can access the beaches, a preference by guests from upcountry. According to the proprietors, most of the business they get comes from Nairobi and other upcountry towns including Kisumu, Thika and Nakuru.
“When you combine all that you will definitely create a huge opportunity. We have seen an increase in the corporate conferences, bonding and team building and end of year parties by companies seeking to sample Mtwapa’s nightlife,” Mr Kamau says, adding that schools, colleges and teachers also comprise the bulk of their clients.
Cost of food and drinks
Before Danpark opened an office in Nairobi three months ago, the facility was handling three to four functions in a month but today handles a similar number in a week.
The cost, according to operators, is another important factor guests consider. Guests on full board at Danpark pay Sh3,500 – during off peak – compared to twice or more guests are charged in beach hotels.
At Lambada Resort, full board ranges between Sh5,000 to Sh6,000 per person.
Danpark’s revenues have largely been boosted by income from conferences, following an incident in December 2010 in which part of the hotel was razed by a fire, incurring a loss of over Sh6 million, according to Mr Mwara.
The cost of food and drinks is also higher in beach hotels compared to Mtwapa and food sold at the sea front is relatively expensive with guests paying for drinks almost twice what they pay in outlets within Mtwapa.
Danpark has in the recent past hosted international sportsmen who according to Ms Mwara need good and plenty of food with a flexible timetable – which is not possible at beach hotels.
This year, conference operators have seen a significant increase of activities due to civic education going on in the counties prompted by the enactment of the new Constitution.
These activities are largely organised by Non Governmental Organisations (Ngo’s) and government departments and when the season is high, there is a huge ripple effect as guests seek alternative joints for drinks and food, Mr Kamau said.
So much has the demand for conferencing in Mtwapa grown that most of the establishments have created facilities to accommodate as few as 20 participants, resulting to a capacity of nearly 2,000 in a town with a demand of over 4,000, the investors said.
To take advantage of the emerging County governments, Mr Mwara said he plans to invest Sh30 million in an expansion project to a bed capacity of 50 and conference facilities with a capacity of 1,000 guests.
The town has also attracted banks, supermarket chains and oil retailers. Services available include international money transfer – Money Gram and Western Union – with reports that thousands of foreign currency flow into the town from Europe daily.