Traders display gifts and flowers on Kimathi Street in Nairobi on the eve of Valentine’s Day. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

Valentine’s Day: Love or business?

In Summary

Will you be celebrating this Valentine’s Day? How much money do you intend to spend to celebrate your partner or yourself?

Had you factored in today’s expenses in your February budget? What will guide your expenditure?

While it’s the season to celebrate love, capitalism has permeated the Valentine’s Day tradition, and is now somewhat epitomised by lavishness.


This explains why people with huge outlays sometimes make bizarrely grand romantic gestures in the name of love.

Even for poor people, the temptation to outdo themselves during the Valentine’s Day is high. The season’s promotions don’t help matters either.

Online stores, supermarkets, gift shops, hotels, travel companies and utility businesses invent enticing packages that push consumers to dig deeper into their wallets.

With love in the air, resisting the bait is hard. And herein lies the pitfall: consumers often stretch their budget to accommodate romantic delights, even worse, spending money they don’t have at all.

So, how are businesses capitalising on Valentine’s this year to make a killing?

This month, a number of local hotels and restaurants are offering four course meals, a candlelit dinner, jazz music, a ‘‘complimentary’’ bottle of wine and roses.

Have you ever known that while the wine is labelled ‘‘complimentary’’, its cost is included in your bill? Usually at a higher rate than is ordinarily sold?

Ibis Styles Hotels in Nairobi’s Westlands, for instance, are offering dinner at Sh8,000 per couple. A VIP experience of the same package will leave you a tidy Sh12,000 out of pocket.

Should you decide to spend the night at the hotel, you’ll have to part with Sh17,000 and Sh21,000 for the regular and VIP experience respectively, with breakfast and the lure of a late checkout.

Research shows that hotels feature on the top of Kenyans’ wish list in the buildup to the Valentine’s. Mastercard’s yearly Love Index shows that transactions on hotels in Kenya surged by 65 per cent from 2017 to 2019, wish is three times the global average of 22 per cent.

There has also been a spike in getaway packages for couples this month in Naivasha, Nanyuki, Diani and in the Mara. Tour companies Bountiful Safaris, Bonfire Adventures and Brightways are driving this travel craze, by seizing lovers’ desire to impress.

Brightways, for instance, is offering 11 different travel options this Valentine’s, going for between Sh30,000 and Sh140,000 per couple.

Even airlines have joined the fray, giving travellers ‘‘unique’’ travel experiences. A trip to Malindi from Nairobi with Jambojet, for instance, is going for Sh6,800. While onboard, you can order a glass of champagne.

Online store Jumia is also running a promotion on select products. Perfume, cosmetics, jewellery and clothes are all selling at ‘‘discounted rates’’ on the store.

A spot check by Nation though shows that the majority of these products are actually selling at fairly the same prices they sell at on regular days.

Interestingly, the promotion runs exclusively on the Valentine’s week, from February 10 to February 16.

Kilimall, another online store, is selling shoes, watches and men and women’s accessories at virtually unbelievable discounts of between 60 and to 80 per cent. Whether this is a ploy to drive sales or a genuine initiative is unclear.

During last year’s edition of the Valentine’s, taxi hailing company Uber too was in the romantic mood, targeting singles. Read a statement on their website:

‘‘We’re sorry Cupid’s arrow didn’t hit just in time for Valentine’s but not to worry. We’re committed to being there whenever you need us and that includes Valentine’s Day.’’

Riders were expected to use UberX at certain times of the day to win various gifts, including a movie voucher, ice cream, a hamper of personal care products and alcohol.

This year too, Uber has introduced discounts targeting riders using their budget option Chap Chap, to promote more rides.

Findings by Ipsos-Synovate released this week indicated than about 51 percent of Kenyans wouldn’t be marking this Valentine’s Day. Reason? Financial constraints. The high inflation rate at slightly above 15 per cent has made Kenyans reluctant to spend on this day.

According to the research that surveyed 1011 people, 30 per cent of Kenyans said they didn’t believe in the tradition. Even so, 60 per cent of urban dwellers in Kenya said the day was worth celebrating.