Workshops, conferences and seminars currently dominate the domestic hospitality market here in Kenya. The bulk of this market is patronised by corporates led by not-for-profits.

By August of 2009, there were a staggering 6,075 registered NGOs in Kenya (NGO Coordination Board). Every year an estimated 400 new NGOs enter the market. This has greatly boosted domestic tourism particularly in seasons of low international visitor traffic.

You can always bet that on an average day in Kenya, there will be a stakeholder event or a farmer training seminar, a scientific conference or perhaps even a write-shop taking place somewhere courtesy of an NGO. Each of these will usually provide ample conference and accommodation facilities to cater for an average 30-50 participants, usually booked on half or full-board accommodation.

What that means is if you are in this sector, then come the end of the month, you will most probably have attended 4 to 5 of these usually 3-day residential events at the least (I know some guys who do even 10 to 15). These meetings surround the participants with an array of sumptuous delicacies such that it is easy for one to quickly lose track of their dietary objectives.

You have hardly had a chance to digest your hefty continental breakfast than another sizeable portion heads your way in the name of a 10 o’clock snack and before long, a 3-course buffet lunch is already beckoning in the horizon.

Barely 2 hours later, you will be lured to the 4 o’clock tea which, depending on the hotel, may be a meal in and of itself. At this rate you can imagine what 3 days and nights can do to you – and remember we said on average you may attend 4 to 5 such meetings. Do the math and discover how you can quickly find yourself in very unhealthy dietary territory!

To help you avoid these conference kilos, I have put together a few dietary tips you can use.

Maintain Proper Nutrition

Here are some eating guidelines to consider following.

  1. Avoid hotel breakfast items loaded with fat and salt such as sausages, bacon, and fried potatoes.
  2. Start your day with fresh fruit, yogurt and cereals.
  3. Find good salads and lower fat, whole-wheat sandwiches for lunch.
  4. Stick with lighter fare lunches.
  5. Minimise the amount of fried, fatty foods.
  6. Pack enough multivitamins to last your entire trip.
  7. Don’t overeat, especially at buffets or you will feel it back in your hotel room.
  8. Drink lots of water (bottled where tap water is not safe).
  9. Don’t overdo the coffee shop trips during the day.

Exercise and More Exercise

Try to keep physically active (this is one, I admit, I also do sparingly). Here are a few tips to remember.

  1. Spend some time in the hotel gym (at least 20 minutes should do). By the way, in some hotels, the gym will most likely be available at no cost to your group – so find out if this is the case and maximise on the opportunity! Otherwise some of the rooms are big enough to allow you to do a few basic warm-ups.
  2. Do laps in the hotel pool if there is one. Always pack your swimwear in the event it is an all-inclusive package.
  3. If the neighbourhood around the hotel is safe (ask at the hotel reception), take a brisk walk outside.
  4. Make sure you always get adequate sleep. I cannot emphasise enough how a huge temptation it always is to party into the wee hours of the night, especially if you are on foreign land and the lure of discovery beckons.

Observe these simple but effective tips and the conference binging bug will not catch up with you any time soon. Let me know how you are doing on those conference kilos!