Apartment hotels are a growing trend worldwide and Africa is getting its fair share. On 5 April, Mövenpick opened the Mövenpick Hotel & Residences Nairobi in the Westlands district of Kenya’s capital city. Neelma Maru, Director of Sales and Marketing, offers more insight into the new property and Nairobi itself.
Q: What was the thinking behind an ‘apartment hotel’ as the Mövenpick offering for this particular property?
A: We wanted something different for our clients. Most people who travel for business, especially for long periods, can develop homesickness and crave the nostalgic reminders of home. Guests appreciate hotels that create an atmosphere that is more like a home and comfortable too. Some simple ideas can do the trick to create a like-home ambiance to make a guest feel welcome. Aspects like in-room refrigerators and microwaves also allow guests to bring basic groceries and prepare simple meals. Our apartment themes are designed to make our clients feel at home.
Q: What differentiates this hotel from others in the area?
A: Mövenpick Hotel & Residences Nairobi is big on MICE offering and culinary experience. Stand-out facilities include the elegant 710m2 Almasi ballroom with a built-in stage which can be converted into two enclosed sections, and the pillar-less Hall of Africa with space to host up to 1,100 guests in theatre style. All accommodation options are spacious and feature authentic, African-inspired décor. The one and two-bedroom residences, which are ideal for families or longer stay guests, range in size from 97m2 to 121m2 and offer a separate living room and fully-equipped kitchen.
Q: Why Westlands as the hotel’s location?
A: Westlands is ideal for every traveller because it is located in the thriving commercial, retail and entertainment hub. It is also close to the city centre, diplomatic districts and only 20 kilometres from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Q: What’s your view on the state of business travel in Nairobi?
A: Nairobi business contributes enormously to the economy of Kenya. In fact, Nairobi is considered a business hub for East and Central Africa. Nairobi, alone, contributes 60% of Kenya’s GDP. Most companies that have operations in this region have headquarters in Nairobi, including international organisations and multi-national companies. Those looking to establish a new business find that Nairobi is an ideal location because of its infrastructure and liberal markets. Government policies have encouraged business growth and a stable economy. Its modernity, state-of-the-art skyline, improved technology, highly educated and trained manpower, and diverse and vibrant market have elevated Nairobi to become the business hub of the region.
Q: Do you feel that international business travel is returning to Nairobi after a difficult few years?
A: Yes, it is. There is more economic stability and confidence in the market is progressive, with more global organisations looking into setting up hubs in the capital to serve the region. Investors are also very interested in the market, hence attracting more business travellers.
Q: What’s the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport experience like now, compared with, say, five years ago?
A: JKIA has been ranked as the most improved airport in Africa. Travellers can now choose from the variety of lounges, services have been improved, and security has been beefed up. Different direct f lights have also been introduced.
Q: What do you believe the modern-day business traveller is looking for in a hotel?
A: They look for factors like easy check-in services, room service, in-house coffee shops, gym access, wi-fi (preferably free and high speed), accessibility to various facilities and interest places, as well as quality dining options. Business travellers are often multitaskers who check their email and print documents while enjoying their morning coffee and having an in-house fax and printer is also an added advantage for hotels. Having all of these amenities with easy access is what propels business travellers to select properties and stay loyal to them. The more available business amenities, the less expense to the company footing the bill, which creates a win-win for both the guest and the business.
Q: Are there any topical international hotel trends that you feel could be applied and used in the African market?
A: Web check-in to avoid queuing at reception. Web check-in is part of our brand signatures, to be introduced to all the Mövenpick hotels. Data leveraging allows hotels to reach the right audiences with the right content and enable us to publish more competitive data across all of our distribution channels. Mobile-first indexing is anticipated to be fully implemented in 2018, which means optimising hotel websites and booking pages for mobile will be a priority for many hotel companies. Some sources say the smart room is nigh, while others say it’s already here. Either way, we will be seeing more internet-inspired hotels rooms in 2018, with guests unlocking their rooms, adjusting the lighting and temperature, and streaming their Netflix favourites on the TV with their smartphones.