Tourist arrivals from China has been growing steadily over the last five years.

However, there is need to balance sustainability and yield from this key market. Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) is now gearing to increase high yield tourist arrivals from China and extend their visitation beyond the two months of July and August during the world famous wildebeest migration season.

KTB is therefore seeking to work closely with the trade to make Kenya competitive in the Chinese Luxury and Adventure distribution system. The Kenya trade is invited to share in this aspiration by aligning their offers to Kenya’s positioning in the Chinese market.

Positioning destination Kenya in China – Beyond Migration

Magical Kenya destination brand represents an all year round destination with diverse and authentic experiences. The popular migration season coincides with the Chinese summer period which naturally makes Kenya – and more specifically, the Maasai Mara National Reserve, one of the highly demanded destinations in the world.

Unfortunately, arrivals from China sharply decline soon after the wildebeest migration and remain low until the next migration season. Market skimming should probably be considered during the migration season as a means of capturing maximum value from tourists during the peak period.

The migration season readily sells itself and Kenya is a pull product to the Chinese travelers. There is therefore an urgent need for Destination Management Companies (DMCs) to enlighten the Chinese suppliers that there is a lot more beyond the migration. This can help avert loss of business to competitors during the 10 months that follow the migration season.

Market insights in targeting Chinese Luxury and Adventure tourists

KTB participated in the International Luxury Travel Mart (ILTM) China in 2018 and was able to mine valuable nuggets of insights from the Chinese travel market that are of benefit to the Kenya travel trade.

Chinese luxury travelers form the ideal target segment as they have the money, time, and flexibility to travel. They are keen on unique experiences, discovery and most importantly -experiences that they can brag about and share as captured on selfies, photos and video; for memory too. Kenya’s trade should aim to provide free high-speed Wi-Fi so that such experiences are shared in real time, or shortly after the experience moment.

 Travel planning:

Chinese luxury travelers want unique experiences so budgets are not a problem if they like what the tailored itinerary has to offer. Travel budgets for customized holiday range from US$ 5000 to US$ 20,000 per person for a 6 – 10-day visit excluding international flights. There are outliers that can be targeted. They seek out prime, exclusive or unique experiences in a group of peers each willing to part with US$ 40,000, 50,000 or even 100,000 to be part of the experience.

Experiences Chinese tourists want while in Kenya:

A Chinese tourist has an adventurous spirit and is willing to pay for value for adventurous experiences. They want “Wow”, “exclusive/forbidden”, “Oh my God!” type of experiences in Kenya. These are experiences beyond Kenya’s top anchor experiences that are already being offered.

Topline observations on Kenya itineraries offered to Chinese consumers:

Popular destinations beyond the Maasai Mara are: Nairobi City tour for luxury shopping, The Aberdares, Naivasha, Mombasa, Diani, Lewa, Tsavo East, Tsavo West, Samburu, Nakuru, Lake Baringo, Lake Bogoria, Mt. Kenya and the Equator. The Chinese tourists prefer to use exclusive and high-end lodges, camps or five hotels in most of these areas. Usually, some don’t get their desired accommodation during peak season in July and August which in turn becomes a complaint feedback to their Chinese agent.

Chinese travelers largely spend between 6 and 8 days in Kenya. Chinese tourists spend about 4 to 5 days within three parks that could either be Lake Nakuru, Maasai Mara, Amboseli or Mt Kenya.

A couple of Kenyan DMC brands serve the Chinese luxury segment which represents a huge market share and opportunity for other DMCs.

Some of the top of mind accommodation brands mentioned used by Chinese luxury tourists were: Elsa’s Kopje, Loisaba, Larsen, Kempinski brands, Lodia House, Enashipai Resort and Spa, Naivasha Simba Lodge, Nairobi Safari Park, Lake Bogoria Spa Resort, Saasab, Serena Mountain Lodge, Mt Kenya Safari Club, Sweet Waters Serena Camp, The Giraffe Manor and Hemingways Nairobi.

Suggestions to Kenya DMCs on areas to improve on to be competitive:

However, there are a number of areas in which Kenya can both improve and transform its offering in order to effectively increase its share of Chinese business in the Luxury and Adventure segments.

The suggestions for improvement are listed below:

  • There is need to invest in building local Kenyan guides that speak the Chinese language to understand the culture and mannerisms of Chinese travelers in order to make their experience in Kenya authentic and rewarding.
  • There is need to provide instantaneous or quick responses to queries and enquiries irrespective of time zones. When interacting with Chinese travelers and trade, it is preferable to use the WeChat platform to communicate and share documents and files.
  • There is need for Kenyan DMCs to provide luxury sales reference tools to help their Chinese agents better sell Magical Kenya experiences month by month, beyond the migration season.
  • Kenyan DMCs need to increase face to face interaction with Chinese trade in order to increase trust and understanding with a view to meeting clients’ aspirations.
  • Kenyan DMCs should consider providing catalogues of images and videos to Chinese agents and consumers that demonstrate the unique experiences that Kenya has to offer.
  • Be ready to conduct business in China and to understand their business culture.