Monday, March 3, 2008
Interview with Nigel Brown, Chairman House of Wonders
What has the real impact been on your business, as a result of the Kenyan crisis and when did you start to see the extra tourist traffic.
We started to feel the change end of January and We have had an exceptionally strong February approx. + 20% on previous years. This is partly due to a general continued growth in interest in Zanzibar and in part due to the crisis in Kenya.
Do you think that Zanzibar may have been overwhelmed since it all happen so suddenly and unexpectedly.
I don’t think so. Certainly many of the hotels are full at this time but I do not think that this added trade will in some way tip the balance. It must be remembered that Zanzibar has seen explosive growth over the last ten years and is able to cope.
Most visitors to Zanzibar usually complain about the poor service and poorly trained hotel personnel in comparison to other tourist destinations in Africa. Please comment.
I do not agree with your starting premise. It is absolutely not true to state that most guests complain. There are, as in any rapidly growing tourist market, issues with staff quality but in the end this is an issue which has to be looked at on a hotel by hotel basis. In many hotels the standard is high, in others it is unacceptable. Those with poor service will have to mend their ways, or go out of business in what is a very competitive tourist market.
Give a brief history of your Zanzibar property?
We are a European web based travel operator with long-standing links with Zanzibar. In addition we are involved in Chapwani Island, a beautiful private island with a small Hotel with only 10 rooms only 20 minutes by boat from Stone Town.
What is unique about your hotel?
The island is absolutely unique in East Africa in that it is a mid-priced hotel but with exclusive use of a private island for a maximum of 20 guests. Whilst the island is close to Stone Town, it has a beautiful beach and a wealth of wildlife, including egrets, open billed stork, fruit bats, bush babies, coconut crabs and our own breed of dik-dik, the Chapwani Duiker. The island is perfect for small events such as parties or weddings and the whole island can be booked outside of high season for 20 guests for only US$2,100 per night.
What can the be done in Zanzibar to enable this beautiful island compete effectively against established markets like Kenya?
Zanzibar is already competing fairly successfully on the world stage as the numbers of visitors to the island clearly show. My fear is that the emphasis on large structures and the positive discouragement of small and medium sized Hotels and other tourist businesses will end up in lowering the image of Zanzibar and destroying the unique character of the island. There are only so many large hotels that you can put on the East Coast of Zanzibar before it starts to look like Sharm-el-Sheik. Zanzibar still has the opportunity (outside the Italian market where it is already seen as a low cost mass destination) to position itself as a relatively unique destination with a lot of style and culture. The window to grasp that opportunity is however in my view slowly closing as development of massive new structures appears to be the chosen route.
You can drop Nigel a note at nigel (at) houseofwonders.com