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Kenya's Spa Country

By: Denis Gathanju
Posted: October 26, 2009, from the November 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
woman getting hot stone massage

Hot stone massage, as performed at the Sunrise Resort Apartments and Spa in Nyali, is one of the most popular spa treatments in Kenya.

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Nairobi has led this trend, with the resort towns of Mombasa and Malindi following closely. However, most spas and wellness centers in these two resort cities on the Kenyan coast are tailored to the tourist market that offers a higher demand for the services. “But with many Nairobians opting to spend weekends and public holidays at the coast, it means they will need to seek these services while visiting the Kenyan coast,” notes Titus Mwangangi, general manager of the Sunrise Resort Aparments and Spa, located in the leafy Nyali suburbs of Mombasa. Continuing, he explains, “We have therefore been innovative in our service and product offerings that are tailored to meet the demands of these market segments. We are quite flexible with our clients as we want to offer them the best value for their time and money.”

Charles Muia, general manager of Mombasa’s Serena Beach Hotel and Spa, home of the Maisha Spa, and Mohammed Hersi, general manager of Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort and Spa, which is also in Mombasa and home of the Tulia Spa, echo this sentiment. They both concur that Kenyan women attending business meetings and conferences in Mombasa are frequent visitors to the spas there. “It is not just about the beautiful look,” notes Muia. “It is also about total relaxation after a stressful day. They want to unwind after a hard day’s work so they can be re-energized as they move forward.”

Top treatments

While traditional massage has been one of the most popular services, hot stone massage is also quickly gaining prominence among Kenyans. According to Jane Kanyi, a massage therapist in Nairobi’s Hadassah Spa, the hot stone massage is deeply relaxing to the body and packs a punch of energy on every muscle through heated volcanic stones of varying sizes placed on an herbal-oiled bare back.

The heated stones give a deeper massage by creating body sensations of comfort and warmth. “The direct heat relaxes the muscles, allowing manipulation of a greater intensity than with regular massage. This ensures that every cell in the body receives more oxygen and nutrients while at the same time waste material is removed more effectively through the corresponding increase in lymph flow,” Kanyi says. “It is quite an experience to feel the deeply relaxing, penetrating heat from the basalt stones.”

Government involvement

The Kenyan government has identified tourism as one of the major engines for its economy under a new master plan dubbed Vision 2030 that is set to propel this East African nation into a medium-income economy by the year 2030. Under the Vision 2030 blueprint, the government intends to provide incentives encouraging investments in tourism, and while international tourists have been key drivers for the sector, the government is also shifting its focus on the growing domestic tourism sector that continues to show remarkable growth fueled by the young population and a growing middle class society.