Sunday, April 21

Domestic Tourists Redefine Cost-cutting

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The majority of Kenyans, faced with many competing and pressing expenditures on a daily basis, put taking a holiday at the very bottom of their list of priorities. It is, therefore, not surprising that they don’t know much of their country because they have neither gone on a holiday in their lives nor travelled outside their home areas. A few of them, however, are slowly embracing the spirit of domestic tourism by visiting some of the country’s tourist sites, especially in the Coast and Rift Valley provinces.

But some of them, with an eye on saving to finance their priority expenses – food, health, shelter and fees for the children’s education, as well as investments – are devising ingenious ways of cutting costs associated with their holiday. Amongst these measures are swapping homes, renting houses or booking into guesthouses instead of hotels. Swapping Works!

For instance, Ms Harriet Were has been planning to have a get-away with her family for a long time, but she  could not accommodate the costs of such a trip into her family budget. However, last year, which she describes as a very difficult year for her, she decided that nothing could deter her from taking a trip in to the Coast with her family during the Christmas holidays.
“Some of them, with an eye on saving to finance their priority expenses – are devising
ingenious ways of cutting costs associated with their holiday.”

“I contacted a family friend who lives in Malindi to advise me on the various tourist sites and a relatively affordable hotel, preferably with a swimming pool,” said Ms Were. The friend agreed and promised to consult his wife since she is in the hospitality industry. In return, he asked her to look for the same for him (leisure spots and hotel) in Nairobi,since he would love to spend the Christmas holiday in the city with his family.

The next time she called the friend to give him the details, however, he asked her whether they could swap homes instead of having to lodge in a hotel. “The idea was so tempting and we both decided to discuss it with our spouses and come to a consensus,” said Ms Were.

It was not a difficult decision to make because the two families knew each other well. “This was like a dream to me,because all I was expected to do was to pay for the meals, sites we would visit and the swimming pool in a nearby hotel,” she said.

They swapped the homes.Since she lives in Ngumo Estate, Ms Were recommended to her friend that they visit the Nairobi National Park, Safari Walk, Mamba Village, Giraffe Centre, Bomas of Kenya and Methodist Guest House for swimming,among others. On their part, Ms  Were and her family had fun at afairly affordable cost during what she
admits is her first visit to Malindi. “Since the friend’s home is located within Malindi’s CBD, we easily
accessed the beach, Vasco Da Gama Pillar, a swimming pool at Driftwood Club and deep-sea snorkelling,” she said enthusiastically.

Affordable Alternatives But Ms Were was not done yet because, after returning from the Coast, she crowned her holiday by swapping houses with another friend staying in Nakuru. The Nakuru friend called her to enquire about places they could spend their holiday in Nairobi with possibility of joining the Weres – who were still in  Malindi.
“So I suggested they stay in my house since I was headed to Nakuru the following day and our Malindi friends were on their way to the Coast. They were delighted because they had been to my place so we swapped homes  again,” she said.

In the process, she enjoyed touring sites like the Menengai Crater, Nakuru National Park and Lakes Bogoria and
Nakuru while relaxing in the sauna in the resorts they visited. Mrs Alice Ngue and her family opted for another cost-saving measure by booking into the ACK Guest House in Likoni. “The charges are affordable, a swimming pool is at our exposal, the food is good and the workers are hospitable,” she said.On her part, Ms Patricia Wanjala teamed up with three family friends and rented a 5 bed-roomed houseat a cost of Ksh 20,000 exclusive of food; they hired a cook and a cleaner to take charge over the five days they were in Mombasa. Ms Wanjala, who  maintains that she has had bad experiences with hotels, says her decision was informed by a quest for security both for her luggage and family. “I decided to do things differently this time so that we have a more homely environment to ourselves,” she said.

Caution

Mr Peter Wanambisi, a travel consultant with Palbina Travel & Tours Ltd, warns that such cost-cutting measures come with their own unique qualities, both positive and negative. “Although they are yet to be realised
fully in our country, such measures help to cut costs and hence are affordable. One enjoys the full taste of
other people’s culture at places visited with a ‘feel’,” he says.

There is also the element of one enjoying his or her privacy with the full knowledge that their own houses are
also being cared for. However, Mr Wanambisi says, many people have reservations about their privacy because of cultural issues, hence few people will give their swapping partners the privilege of enjoying freedom of movement in their houses.

“Perhaps more significantly,
house swapping is a threat to
jobs in the hospitality industry
and government
revenue in form of tax.”

“When vacating the house, one has to account for each and every item used,” he says. Perhaps more significantly, house swapping is a threat to jobs in the hospitality industry and government revenue in form of tax.

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