Kenya is the hub of East Africa. Its Indian Ocean coast lies between Somalia to the north-east and Tanzania to the south. Other surrounding countries are Ethiopia and South Sudan to the north and Uganda to the west.
Population: 43 million
Time zone: GMT+3
Plugs: UK-type square three-pin
Dialling code: +254
Currency: Kenyan shilling – $1=86.3KES
Language: English and Kiswahili
Kenya is one of Africa’s more powerful economies, but is still a developing country. Even though business travel is thriving and many global brands are represented here, travellers originating from more developed regions may not be prepared for the social imbalances and infrastructure limitations.
Kenya’s ethnic diversity has produced a vibrant culture, but is also a source of conflict. So, while the country is relatively calm in terms of business travel, the northern border region with Somalia remains a high risk area for travel, due to the ongoing activities of rebel armies in the region.
The economy has seen much expansion, with strong performance in the services sector, which contributes about 63% of GDP, whilst tourism is a key element. Industrial activity concentrated around the three largest urban centres, Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, is dominated by food-processing industries such as grain milling, beer production and sugarcane crushing, and the fabrication of consumer goods. The oil and gas sectors are also growing significantly.
Kenya is also emerging as an East African technology leader, with the country’s much-touted Konzo Techno City project at the forefront of that. It will be situated along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway on 5,000 acres of land 60 kilometres from Nairobi, and will be constructed in four phases over 20 years. The first phase will be completed in three years’ time. The ‘technopolis’ will consist of a business process outsourcing park, a science park, mega malls, convention centre, data schools, hotels, international schools, hospitals, a championship golf course, financial district, high-speed mass transport system, and residential housing, among other facilities. The government is facilitating the construction of both onsite and offsite infrastructure, including roads, water and sewerage systems, energy and high-speed rail.
Business Travel Activity
2013 was a difficult year for Kenya, and Nairobi specifically, due to the August fire that ripped through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the September terrorist attack on the Westlands shopping mall.
The JKIA fire moved through the international arrivals terminal on the 7th of August, with all inbound flights diverted to Mombasa, Eldoret, Entebbe, Kilimanjaro International and Dar es Salaam, and all outbound flights cancelled. Kenya Airways began limited domestic operations that evening, using the domestic departure terminal, which was not damaged by the fire. A temporary international arrivals facility was then set up at the Presidential Pavilion at JKIA, and began processing passengers just a week later on 14 August. Expansions at JKIA have been underway since 2006, adding a fourth terminal, increased apron space, an additional taxiway and more parking bays. But renovations had run behind schedule from almost the beginning, and the buildings ruined in the fire will delay the completion of new airport even further. In the months following the fire, the Kenyan government also announced plans to build a temporary terminal, convert the parking garage under construction into an arrivals lounge, and accelerate the construction of the new terminal.
Kenya Airways was obviously the airline most affected by the fire, but despite that setback, it’s been a bumper year for the airline.Kenya Airways took delivery of the sixth of 10 fully-owned E-190 jets. Under a 10-year strategic plan, the airline is to increase its fleet to 119 aircraft by 2021 and grow its destinations to over 115.
On that note, KQ increased frequency to Maputo in Mozambique. This brought to four the number of flights operated by the airline to the Mozambican capital. KQ also received approval from the Malawi government to begin flying into Chileka Airport in Blantyre, along with receiving approval to resume 5th Freedom Traffic Rights on the Lilongwe-Lusaka sector. February had actually seen Kenya Airways suspend all flights to and from Malawi, in the wake of a crippling strike by public sector workers in the southern African country. At the time, KQ was operating 10 flights a week to and from Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe and the suspension was expected to affect the business communities in the two countries, as well as other connected southern African countries. KQ resumed flights later in the year, but at the time of going to press in early December, workers at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe were striking once again, and this was affecting all incoming flights.
In its quest to create an African gateway to Asia, Kenya Airways improved its flight connections between Hong Kong and West Africa via its Nairobi hub, and commenced flights between Guangzhou and Nairobi via Bangkok. There was also the introduction of a direct flight to Abu Dhabi, with KQ settling on three flights a week, off the back of the announcement of the codeshare agreement with Etihad Airways.
2013 also saw the announcement that Kenya Airways and RwandAir were to form a strategic partnership and stronger relations. Travellers can enjoy four flights a day between Kigali and Nairobi.
Also within Africa, Kenya Airways took the decision to increase the number of its flights from Nairobi to Gaborone, due to increased demand. The new flight departs Gaborone at 00h50 and lands in Nairobi at 06h00. 2013 also saw the announcement of direct KQ flights to Abuja, Nigeria, in a bid to further tourism and trade between the two countries. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the review of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement between the two countries was an important milestone that would allow Kenya Airways to fly directly to Abuja.
Domestically, Kenya Airways added three more flights between Nairobi and Eldoret, bringing to 14 the total number of KQ flights on this route. Eldoret sits in the Rift Valley region of Kenya and is the country’s fastest-growing town.
From an international airline perspective, Qatar Airways increased its frequency between Doha and Nairobi, by adding four additional weekly flights to and from the capital city. That saw the airline increase its A320 aircraft flights to 18 flights per week.
Edelweiss, the Swiss charter airline, decided to withdraw its flights to Mombasa, Kenya, between 5 May and 29 September 2014. The airline has been flying to the Kenyan coast for a number of years, regardless of season, but has now decided to scale back its operation to both Mombasa and Kilimanjaro. The airline will continue its scheduled flights to Kenya during the European winter season, 30 September to 4 May, as residents up north escape the plummeting temperatures for sunny holiday destinations.
Fly540 Kenya expanded its flight network with the signing of its first international interline agreement with Qatar Airways. The agreement began with an inbound interline service for passengers arriving in Kenya. Qatar Airways’ passengers are able to connect with a Fly540 Kenya flight at Jomo Kenyatta International, and fly to destinations within Fly540 Kenya’s network, using one itinerary. Passengers will have seamless, through-baggage and hassle-free onward connections to Eldoret, Kisumu, Lamu, Lodwar, Malindi and Mombasa, and also across the border into Juba and Zanzibar.
In related industry news, Travelport, a distribution services and e-commerce provider for the global travel industry, launched a new direct commercial presence in Kenya. With the new Travelport operation for travel agents in place and an expanded Travelport team on the ground, the travel technology provider announced plans to introduce new customer support services and deploy a wide range of products over the following months, all aimed at helping Kenyan travel agents take advantage of the region’s growth and earn new revenues.
The Kenyan hotel industry may not have been as busy as its airline counterparts in 2013, but there was still some movement on the Nairobi hotel scene. With tourism a major contributor to the economy, it stands to reason that Kenya is a leading market for the expansion of hotel groups, both local and international.
Kempinski opened a 5-star luxury hotel – the Kempinski Villa Rosa – along Waiyaki Way, the road linking the Nairobi CBD with the affluent suburb of Westlands.
Beating Kempinski to the punch by a couple of months was Best Western, which opened the Best Western Premier Nairobi in Hurlingham, 10 minutes from the city centre.
Also opening was Hemingways, a 45-room boutique hotel in Karen with terraces and views over manicured grounds and the Ngong Hills in the distance.
Hemingways, Kempinski and Best Western are expected to be followed soon by Dusit International – one of Asia’s most prominent hospitality groups – which announced early in 2013 that it would be opening a new hotel in Nairobi in the third quarter of the year. That opening has since been pushed back. DusitD2 Nairobi will be the group’s second property on the African continent, after the Dusit Thani LakeView Cairo, Egypt. The new property is located at 14 Riverside, an exclusive development in downtown Nairobi.
Also opening in 2014, although late in the year, will be the Radisson Blu in Upper Hill. It will have 256 contemporary rooms, and the dining options will include a poolside bar and all-day terrace. The hotel will also have a wellness centre, and Radisson Blu has big plans for its event space, which will feature a stunning ballroom and 13 meeting rooms.
Kenya is a key African hub and is specifically seeking to create an African gateway to Asia. Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is the gateway to Kenya and is served by a range of international airlines.
Following the recent fire at JKIA, the airport has announced that the new Terminal Four will be used for both arrivals and departures. The terminal will also offer a SkyTeam lounge, as well as a range of duty-free shops. The new Greenfield Terminal will service Kenya Airways and its affiliate airlines, and construction is expected to begin in March 2014. Ultimately, the airport will double in size through this expansion.
JKIA is approximately 20 minutes from the main business district and it is recommended to use the Mombasa Highway between the airport and Nairobi city. Taxis are plentiful and are best for getting to the city – alternatively, major hotels can arrange pre-booked shuttles. Check-in is 45 minutes before departure for local flights and two hours for international. Travellers should make sure that they leave at least two hours to get there, as the main road to the airport has heavy traffic flow, and security checks are tedious.
Wi-Fi is available at JKIA airport, along with banking facilities, taxis, car hire, tour operators and hotel booking offices – all conveniently situated at the arrival areas.
“The airport is very easy to navigate, from an arrivals and departure point of view,” says Alfie Arrowsmith, Commercial Manager for Chapman Freeborn. “Car hire is very easy to organise, and it’s pretty easy getting around. If you are unfamiliar with Nairobi, I would recommend an airport transfer as well as using local taxi services between meetings.”
“My airport tip is the Java Hut in the international terminal, which sells coffee in bulk and makes for great gifts for home,” says Bobby Bryan, Commercial Manager: East and West Africa for Delta Air Lines.
Wilson Airport is a smaller and busy general aviation airport located in a south-central suburb of Nairobi. Other major airports in Kenya are Moi International in Mombasa and Kisumu International Airport – the main airport connecting western Kenya with the world.
As the capital, Nairobi offers a selection of high-quality hotels including many international brands, such as InterContinental, Hilton, Best Western, Fairmont, Kempinski and Crowne Plaza, as well as a number of very highly regarded local chains, such as Serena and Sarova Hotels.
Fairmont’s The Norfolk Hotel has played a leading role in Kenya’s colorful history, and continues to be one of Nairobi’s finest and best-known hotels, boasting its own private tropical gardens.
The 5-star InterContinental Nairobi is ideally located for business, close to the parliament buildings and CBD, and adjacent to Kenyatta International Convention Centre. It also has a very popular lobby area, which is often used for business meetings. But it does need some sprucing up and possible renovation, if it is to keep up with the new 5-star hotels popping up in Nairobi.
The Nairobi Serena is also very popular and one of the old, established hotels in the city. It has a colonial feel, but has also kept pace with the times, and still offers a quality 5-star experience, along with a great location, should you need to be in close proximity to the city centre.
There are a couple of ‘modern’ hotel options, in the form of the Tribe Hotel, which has received great reviews and looks to have some stunning facilities and rooms. Then there’s the Sankara Nairobi, which opened a couple of years ago and has become the standout hotel in the suburb of Westlands, where a lot of international businesses are relocating. The Sankara offering is nothing short of 5-star, with an eye-catching pool area and modern rooms.
Just a few hundred metres away is the Southern Sun Nairobi, a member of the South African Tsogo Sun Hotels group.
In the Upper Hill area, there are two hotels that catch the eye – the Crowne Plaza and the Fairview, which is a homely 4-star family-run hotel that has just gone into business with South African hotel group City Lodge, which has purchased 50% of the hotel’s management company. The Fairview also has the Country Lodge attached to it, and this hotel has been rebranded as a Town Lodge, which is City Lodge’s 2-star brand.
Another hotel worth noting is the Sarova Stanley, whilst the Ole Sereni is arguably the best hotel on the airport road, and just 10 minutes from Jomo Kenyatta International. It overlooks the national park, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see game roaming on the other side of the fence. It also has a bar and pool area overlooking the park, very comfortable rooms and stunning food.
Also on the airport road are the Panari Hotel and the newish pair of the Eka Hotel and The Boma.
“My preferred hotel is Fairmont The Norfolk,” says Bryan. “It has very friendly staff and a great restaurant, but it also a real sense of history. It’s not just another ‘hotel-in-a-box’.”
In terms of card acceptance, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted – American Express and Diners Club less so.
Visa exemptions are applied for African nationals from: Botswana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. South Africans are limited to 30-day visa-free stays, and longer visits require a visa.
For citizens of other countries, visas may be obtained through a Kenyan embassy or consulate prior to departure, or are available for purchase on entry at international airports at a cost of $50.
Internet access is available in all cities and most hotels. Internet cafés are common throughout Kenya and usually offer decent link quality. Mobile coverage is usually better in the more populated southern parts of Kenya. It is a good idea to purchase a local SIM card and switch off data roaming, as these charges are excessive. It is much cheaper to purchase a data bundle, and the more expensive ones offer a much better price/limit ratio.
A yellow fever vaccination is required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission. There is a risk of malaria and travellers are recommended to travel with anti-diarrhoeal medication.
Nairobi has a very pleasant climate throughout the year due to its altitude. It has four seasons, but overall temperature changes are moderate. From about mid-December through to March, the weather is mainly sunny and warm by day, cool at night, and generally dry.
April and May constitute the principal rainy season with lower day temperatures. The months of June through September are mainly dry, but often cloudy and cool, with cool nights. October and November make up the short rainy season, with long sunny periods, warm days, and cool nights. Average annual rainfall in Nairobi is about 39 inches, but the actual amount varies widely in any year. Daily temperature range is great – it can be quite warm at midday, yet cool in the evening, with fluctuations of 15 degrees Celsius being possible.
Rain gear is recommended, with warmer clothes for the evenings.
Nairobi has a reputation for being dangerous, so exercise caution. If visitors do decide to walk the streets, they should make sure they do not carry any valuables.
Visitors should be aware of Kenya’s Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, which regulates when and where alcoholic drinks may be consumed in public. Smoking in all public places (except in designated areas) is prohibited throughout Kenya. Taking photographs of official buildings, including embassies, is also not recommended.
“If you’re looking for a restaurant tip, mine is the Aero Club of East Africa,” says Bryan. “Located at Wilson Airport, its restaurant is open to the public and has a good solid menu, at very reasonable prices, in a nice casual outdoor environment, with great views of the local air operations. It’s perfect for a casual business lunch.”
“If you’re looking for a business tip – Nairobi is also the hub for business development in South Sudan. Use your time in Nairobi to see if there are opportunities for your company there as well. Maybe even make a quick side trip to Juba,” says Bryan.
Kyle Haywood – General Manager Africa: fastjet
Ironically, since the fire at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International in August 2013, my experience has improved significantly. Previously, arrivals and departures were in one hall, which caused congestion. Following the fire, the airport is now using temporary facilities for international arrivals, where the immigration desks and baggage carousels are closer together, making the process faster and more streamlined. The only downside is that you have to be bussed to the temporary facility from your flight, which may add a few extra minutes to your journey.
I always stay at the InterContinental Hotel in Nairobi, which offers the same high quality service and security that is offered by leading international hotels. The rooms are large, comfortable and well-equipped. It is conveniently located in close proximity to the major business centres, has a number of meeting rooms and restaurants to choose from, and offers reliable Wi-Fi.
There are a few other things I recommend when travelling to Kenya on business. Firstly, plan additional travel time between business meetings to move around in Nairobi, as the roads are congested and traffic is unpredictable. Also, be conscious of personal security, and don’t wear flashy jewellery or carry expensive cameras in plain sight. Lastly, don’t take yourself off on a stroll, even around your hotel, without chatting to a hotel concierge about suggested routes, or arranging a local guide.
African Express – www.africanexpress.co.ke
Air Berlin – www.airberlin.com
Air Madagascar – www.airmadagascar.com
Air Mauritius – www.airmauritius.com
Air Uganda – www.air-uganda.com
British Airways – www.ba.com (see review here)
Brussels Airlines – www.brusselsairlines.com
Condor – www.condor.com
Daallo – www.daallo.com
Edelweiss – www.edelweissair.ch
EgyptAir – www.egyptair.com
Emirates – www.emirates.com
Ethiopian – www.ethiopianairlines.com
Etihad – www.etihadairways.com
Fly540 – www.fly540.com
Jambojet – www.jambojet.com
Jubba – www.jubba-airways.com
Kenya Airways – www.kenya-airways.com (see review here)
KLM – www.klm.com
LAM – www.lam.co.mz
Precision – www.precisionairtz.com
Qatar – www.qatarairways.com
RwandAir – www.rwandair.com
Saudi Arabian – www.saudiairlines.com
SAA – www.flysaa.com
Swiss – www.swiss.com
Tanganyika Flying –
Turkish – www.turkishairlines.com
TUIfly – www.tuifly.com
Best Western – www.bestwestern.co.ke
Country Lodge – www.countrylodge.co.ke
Crowne Plaza – www.ihg.com
Eka – www.ekahotel.com
Fairmont The Norfolk – www.fairmont.com
Fairview – www.fairviewkenya.com (see review here)
Hemingways – www.hemingways-nairobi.com (see review here)
Heron Portico – www.theheronportico.com
Hilton Nairobi – www.hilton.com
House of Waine – www.houseofwaine.com
InterContinental Nairobi – www.ihg.com
Jupiter – www.jupiterguestresort.com
Kempinski Villa Rosa – www.kempinski.com
La Mada – www.madahotels.com
Laico Regency – www.laicohotels.com
Meltonia – www.meltonialuxurysuites.com
Nairobi Serena – www.serenahotels.com (see review here)
Ole-Sereni – www.ole-sereni.com
Palacina – www.palacina.com
Panari – www.panarihotels.com
Prideinn Lantana Suites – www.prideinn.co.ke
Prideinn Rhapta – www.prideinn.co.ke
Prideinn Westlands – www.prideinn.co.ke
Progressive Park – www.progressiveparkhotel.co.ke
Reata Serviced Apartments – www.reata.co.ke
Red Court – www.redcourt.co.ke
Safari Park Hotel – www.safaripark-hotel.com
Sankara Nairobi – www.sankara.com
Sarova Panafric – www.sarovahotels.com
Sarova Stanley – www.sarovahotels.com
Silver Springs – www.silversprings-hotel.com
Southern Sun Mayfair – www.tsogosunhotels.com
The Boma – www.theboma.co.ke
The Ndemi Place – www.ndemiplace.com
Tribe – www.tribe-hotel.com
Windsor Golf Hotel – www.windsorgolfresort.com
Access-to-Africa – www.access-to-africa.com
American Express – www.americanexpresstravel.co.za
BCD – www.bcdtravel.com
CWT – www.carlsonwagonlit.com
FCm – www.fcm.travel
HRG – www.hrgworldwide.com
Travel with Flair – www.travelwithflair.co.za
Uniglobe – www.uniglobetravel.mu
XL Travel – www.xltravel.co.za