Future is bright for city hotels, State, industry leaders insist
Harriet James @harriet86jim
Recent reports of closure and layoffs in some hotels in Nairobi has brought chills across the tourism sector.
While talk of family and management wrangles at facilities such as Jacaranda Hotels in Westlands are true, many other hotels are undergoing renovations or are involved in mergers and acquisitions to create a better product or improve service delivery.
Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has dismissed reports circulating in social media that all is not well in the industry.
He said the hospitality sector is getting better as a result of mergers and expansion of international brands locally.
“Though we are waiting for their official report, the Southern Sun Mayfair Hotel in Westland is undergoing renovations for a new buyer to take over.
Reports on the Boma Hotel are not true as the hotel is under a new administration appointed by the board to steer it into profits this year,” he said.
PrideInn Group of Hotels Managing Director Hasnain Noorani has also criticised the rumours on social media that hotels in the city are closing, terming them misleading.
“Reports by the Ministry of Tourism say that the industry grew by 1.2 per cent last year, so the industry is not going under,” he added.
Noorani also trashed reports that global hotel brands are chasing out local brands, noting that PrideInn is expanding into other regions.
He spoke on Tuesday after signing an agreement where PrideInn commenced the process of acquiring Azure Hotel on Lantana Road in Westlands, Nairobi.
“We are taking the revenue-sharing kind of model with the intention of acquiring Azure Hotel over the years.
With the addition of this hotel, PrideInn will have nine hotels, 900-bed capacity and conference capacity of 6,000 people,” he said.
The chairman of the Kenya Tourism Federation, Mohamed Hersi, has also affirmed CS Balala’s statement on recent developments in the hospitality sector.
“While the list focused on seven or so hotels, we have double that number opening in Nairobi with old brand names such as Nairobi Serena undergoing a major refurbishment,” he said.
“Currently, Sarova Panafric is renovating and they are even adding more rooms. Mayfair is closing shop since the owner, a Kenyan family who own the property wants to redevelop the plot and that may include a hotel.
Tsonga Sun were only managing it and anyone saying a South African hotel group is exiting Kenya due to bad times is misinformed. You are just ignorant,” he says.
Hersi said while Windsor Golf Hotel & Country Club is going through some rough patch, it is downsizing to plan a comeback and is very much in business.
He also refuted claims closures of some Pride Inn properties in Nairobi and Boma Hotel (owned by the Kenya Red Cross), as false too.
“Boma is a good business, but highly geared and that may not work very well in the hotel industry.
Financing a project 100 per cent on debt financing is always a long shot, but I strongly believe good management can help them come out of their financial turbulence,” he added.
“There are big brands such as the Mariott International, Serena and Radisson Blu that are expanding and we need to focus on this progress and not the negativity,” Balala told journalists while releasing the 2019 Tourism Sector Performance Report.
According to Hersi, Nairobi has three Radissons Group hotels and Hilton two, with a third property coming up.
“Five years ago we had no hotels at the airport, but currently we have three; Hilton, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) and Sheraton,” he said.
The Tribe Group too has added a new, trendy hotel called the Trademark at Village Market.
The City Lodge at Two Rivers is another great addition and Ole Sereni has just completed their new wing with its own royal porte-cochere (vehicle passage) with great views of the Nairobi National Park.
Under the management of Dubai-based hotel, Best Western Plus has also opened another hotel in Westlands, bringing the total number of their facilities under development to four.
Best Western global brand has seven hotels lined up, five of which will be in Nairobi, one in Naivasha and another in Kisumu.
City centre woes
One of the challenges that the CBD hotels are facing is a low number of travellers because of traffics jam in the city.
John Musau, a tourism expert and the General Manager, Tamarind Tree Hotel, attributes the hotel’s growth to location outside the city centre.
“We are near Wilson Airport, the Southern bypass exit to Mombasa road and the Nairobi National Park.
This means that we are getting both international tourists and corporate business, which has helped us stay afloat,” he says.
Musau says that being away from the city centre could be a factor why most hotels located in the CBD are losing out.
“We have become a favourite location for conferences and team building activities.
Few corporates or international tourists want to go to the Nairobi CBD because of traffic jams and security concerns,” he says.