It is Not Just a Massage
Massage therapies attract health and wellness travellers to Kenya
For five consecutive years Julie Redfern, a Canadian, has been visiting Kenya for business, but most importantly to get pampered at Tulia Spa in Mombasa.
“I am addicted to this massage therapy. It releases all the stress and soothes to my body, mind and soul,” she said while at the spa located in Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort last week.
‘‘If I visit this country for this spa then definitely others might want to know what makes it tick,’’ she said while urging the Tourism ministry to take advantage of Kenyan spas and market them as tourist attractions.
Ms Redfern who is a financial advisor loves how Ruth Ndichu, the masseuse, works on her neck, middle back and legs.
“She cracks my back and releases the tension,’’ said the Canadian tourist who adds that she cancels her massage sessions if Ms Ndichu is away. Ms Redfern is not the only spa junkie who frequents Kenyan hotels to feel the touch of a masseuse.
At Maisha Spa in Serena Beach Resort, the faint aura of the pinkish, whitish and purplish frangipani flowers scattered on the floors ushers us into a room with piped music and soft sounds of water bubbles.
David Korir, a businessman, is at the spa for his deep cleansing session, a procedure that is done using a biotech facial machine.
“I have been coming to this spa from Kwale. I love Serena due to its privacy. I also come for their signature treatment which uses natural coconut products, it has scrub, massage and body wrap for Sh8,000,” said the 33-year-old.
Maisha Spa’s oldest repeat client is an 80-year-old woman who comes thrice a week.
Spas, massage and other wellness treatments are a major draw for tourists booking holidays in Kenya and domestic travellers frequenting hotels in Nairobi, Laikipia, Maasai Mara and other destinations.
Globally, many tourists travel to spa towns in Thailand and India and Kenya is gaining a spot in the
“...Universities have been forced to come up with training courses for wellness therapists
global market following the recognition by the World Luxury Spa Awards.
Tulia Spa, set in an open banda where one enjoys direct sun while listening to sea waves was voted among the best spas this year.
“Look at the view, it’s a gorgeous. You can look and listen to the sea while the waves crash. It is very relaxing and makes the whole experience
natural and soothing,” Ms Redfern said.
It was recognised alongside Kaya Spa at Kenya Tribe Hotel which is also in the Condé Nast Traveler’s listing as one of the 40 hottest spas in the world.
During a low season, Tulia Spa attracts about 45 clients and 100 people in high seasons.
Grace Ogolla, Tulia Spa and Gym group manager said they have many repeat clients and what keeps them coming is the use of natural massage oils. More Men
Previously, women were more prevalent in the spa market, however, there are an increasing number of men seeking massage therapy, sea salt scrubs and body wraps.
Ms Ogolla said more than 60 per cent of people who come to Sarova Whitesands’ spa are men.
‘‘I think nowadays men are better informed on the benefits of good grooming. They have discovered the benefits of therapy and they also have the money and time,” she said.
Spa treatments in Kenya have advanced over the years ranging from hot stone therapy, hydrotherapy treatments, body wraps, sea salt to papaya scrubs which are relaxing and have medicinal value.
‘‘We import spiced medicated oils from India which detoxify the body. The western treatments are more for relaxing unlike the Indian Ayurvedic treatments are more of medicinal,” Ms Ogolla said, adding that among their frequent clients include senior government officials and politicians who come from the stress relieving therapy.
Lucy Kuibita, Maisha Spa manager said Sarova which has hotels in Mombasa, Nairobi, Maasai Mara, Kigali, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kivu, Lake Victoria and Kampala. has invested big to meet the changing tastes and preferences of welltravelled clients.
‘‘We acquired a biotech facial machine from UK worth Sh2.5 million that uses biology and technology in massage therapies,’’ she said.
The machine lengthens the muscles (a procedure mostly used by the elderly), cleanses, oxygenates the skin, boosts or brightens the skin, regenerates collagen (which is good for anti-ageing).
‘‘This machine deals with more than seven skin conditions including clearing lines and wrinkles, lifting sagging skin which is a major challenge among many Kenyans especially those above 55. It also clears blemishes and brightens the skin,” she said, adding that most of their repeat clients are governors, Cabinet Secretaries and senior pastors.
Spas are also targeting new clients and Maisha, which also won an award, is one of those offering massage treatments for pregnant women and people living with albinism.
For pregnant women, the therapy releases tension in the lower and upper back, alleviates swelling on the hands and feet .
Gone are the days when hotels just banked on good food and exquisite rooms to woo visitors, spas have become important revenue earners. What is attracting tourists to Kenyan spas is not only the magic hands of masseuses but also the stunning surroundings and super-luxe style of the facilities.
Sam Ikwaye, the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers coast branch executive officer said spa and wellness treatment is a product that can transform and add value to any destination.
Mr Ikwaye said some people travel to connect with nature and for wellness therapies.
“There is potential in spa and wellness tourism. That is why most hotels today have added spas because the modern traveller is keen about his wellness as they are with a destination,” he said, adding that India has thrived in spa and wellness tourism.
“Many travel purely to enjoy a spa vacation. We have a lot of repeat clients who travel just because they want to get the same treatment in our hotels. Universities have also been forced to come up with training courses for wellness therapists,” he said.