BACK ON ITS FEET

Nanyuki Fairmount reopens as hospitality sector rebounds

Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club is the latest outlet to reopen after two years of closure

In Summary

•Other hotels that halted their operations on low bookings due to the Covid and have now reopened include Leopard beach and Radisson Blu.

•A spot check by the Star shows that only Intercontinental is yet to reopen in Nairobi, with shareholders proposing to turn it into a shopping mall.

Josephine Gicharu, General manager Fairmont Hotels Kenya Medhi Morad, Fairmont Mt Kenya Safari Club Architect and interior designer Tania Combos, Head of Conservancy Mt Kenya Wildlife Conservancy Dr. Robert Aruho and Ephantus Kagiri during the reopening of Fairmont Mt Kenya on July 7, 2022./WILFRED NYANGARESI
Josephine Gicharu, General manager Fairmont Hotels Kenya Medhi Morad, Fairmont Mt Kenya Safari Club Architect and interior designer Tania Combos, Head of Conservancy Mt Kenya Wildlife Conservancy Dr. Robert Aruho and Ephantus Kagiri during the reopening of Fairmont Mt Kenya on July 7, 2022./WILFRED NYANGARESI
Image: WILFRED NYANGARESI

The hotel sector in Kenya is steadily emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic, with almost 90 per cent of shut facilities reopened.

This week, the Fairmont brand reopened its Nanyuki facility after 26-months of closure. It has also resumed operations at Fairmont Mara Safari Club and Fairmont the Norfolk in Nairobi.

The Nanyuki-based Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club shut doors in April 2020, laying off 100 employees.

Fairmont Hotels Country general manager Mehdi Morad told the Star that the brand hopes to go back to pre-covid employees rate by the end of the year. Currently, it has 125 employees, having on-boarded 85 post-covid.

"Before Covid, we had a total of 140 employees and we only remained with 40 after closure in April 2020. I believe we will go back to our usual average of 160-170 employees soon,” Morad said.

The reopening of the facility run by French hospitality giant Accor is a boost to tourism because there is no other hotel of its size and level in the area.

"Last year was a difficult year, we were doing an average of -40 per cent  from January to September. As of September we started to see a massive shift upwards, come January 2022 we have gone up on 2019 if not higher, momentum is amazing," Morad said.

Other hotels that closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and have now reopened include Leopard Beach Hotel in Mombasa and and Radisson Blu in Nairobi.

However some international brands like the Hilton and InterContinental hotels plan to completely close shop in Kenya due to poor business over the year.

The latest Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data shows that industry hires is resuming as demand picks up with expansion of some hotel chains including local hospitality group PrideInn.

Sarova Hotels also signed a seven-year management lease of Kisumu’s Imperial Hotel that will see it renamed Sarova Imperial Hotel Kisumu.

The KNBS data on tourism shows travel account receipts jumped from Sh15.2 billion in the first quarter of 2021 to Sh22.4 billion between January and March this year.

Net tourism jumped 47 per cent in the first quarter of this year on the easing of the slump that has hit the industry over the last two years.

The earnings jumped as the number of visitors arrivals through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Moi International Airport rose by 85.1 per cent from 121,739 in the first quarter of 2021 to 225,321 visitors in the first quarter of 2022.

The strong recovery in the tourism industry drove the rebound in the economy with accommodation and food services expanding 56.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2022 from a contraction of 33 per cent on higher tourist numbers as Covid-19 curbs were relaxed.

The hotel now says that it is ready to receive both local and international visitors with a world-class taste in products and services.

The luxury hotel of 100 rooms and suites surrounded by exotic gardens offers a variety of accommodation including cottages and villas.

The latest annual tourism sector performance report shows that in 2019 total bed night occupancy was 9,058,226 while in 2020 it was 3,803,028. 

In January to September 2021, the bed occupancy increased to total of 4,138,821 as compared to same period in 2020 recording a recovery of 60.7 per cent.