It is Not Just a Mas­sage

Mas­sage ther­a­pies at­tract health and well­ness trav­ellers to Kenya

Business Daily (Kenya) - - COVER STORY - Win­nie Atieno wa­­tion­

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.

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