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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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Contained in the draft policy on tourism, the government has recognized the development of spas and wellness centers across the country as one of the niche tourism products that could attract more local and international tourists to the country’s destination spots. Tourism minister Najib Balala explains, “Health spas are tailor-made to provide relaxation and curative benefits to users and are of high benefit to visitors who have chronic health complications, as well as stress-related problems. Health spas also are ideally located in serene areas characterized by naturally occurring hot spring water and geysers, and the Great Rift Valley is a high potential area, with its mineral content that includes curative elements and can serve as a core attraction. Some of the proposed health spa services include hydrotherapy baths, Vichy showers, inhalation therapies, mud baths, massage therapy, aromatherapy, reflexology, cosmetology and chiropractic services.”

Under the development objectives, the Kenyan government, through the Ministry of Tourism, intends to take the development of spas and wellness centers a notch higher. To this end, the Ministry announced the proposed development of a spa and wellness resort city in Diani on Kenya’s south coast. Dubbed the Diani Spa City, the government has pledged to pump in more than KSh 18.5 billion, the country’s shilling curreny—which equates to approximately U.S. $247 million—to help the development of the resort city, though this excludes private capital and infrastructural development plans that will include auxiliary development plans for a new golf course, boutique hotels and a culinary school.

Spa necessary

Checking in with many spas in the Nairobi and Mombasa metropolitan areas reveals women are the biggest spenders and clients at the spas. According to Zenate, many women make regular visits to the spas, as compared to men, who will go for the occasional massage or facial treatment. “Men are mainly interested in physical fitness and neat haircuts when they come visiting,” adds Joseph Mrema, assistant spa manager at Silver Springs’ Silver Spa.

But why spend so much money on body maintenance? When this question was posed to women in Nairobi, they respond with a variety of reasons.

“I work very hard to earn my money, and I have to take care of my body,” says Natasha, a corporate communications executive in Nairobi. Stacey, a Nairobi lawyer, notes, “In the past, men and women cared less about how they looked. Today, you will find spas and beauty clinics in almost all neighborhoods in Nairobi because people want to look attractive. They care about how they look because, in business, first impressions matter. Simply put, great looks win you business.”