Q&A: Nairobi’s appeal

Nairobi plays an important part in Kenya’s economy, being the business hub of the country. It certainly attracts large numbers of international visitors with business and MICE agendas. Neelma Maru, Sales & Marketing Consultant at the Concord Hotel, gives Business Traveller Africa an inside look at the city and its appeal to the global business community. Q: Please provide a brief description of the hotel. A: The Concord is Nairobi’s newest five-star city hotel and offers guests the finest blend of comfort, convenience, exemplary service, tasteful art deco furnishings and luxurious modern-day amenities all perfectly suited to meet the demanding needs and wants of today’s corporate and social individuals and groups. Q: What makes the Concord Hotel a good choice for the modern-day business traveller? A: The hotel is situated in the Westlands suburb, close to a number of malls, banks and offices. It offers purposefully built state-of-the-art meetings/conference/event venue facilities and complimentary wi-fi. There is a wide range of onsite culinary experiences and guests are assured of sound sleep as the hotel is situated away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Q: As a relatively new Nairobi hotel, are you not concerned that the city is becoming over-traded with five-star hotels, or do you believe the market can sustain it? A: As long the demand increases the market will sustain the industry. Africa is a rapidly growing MICE destination, and Kenya has its fair share of meetings and large international conferences and exhibitions, usually hosted at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre. If this trend continues, it will definitely assist the hotels to sustain occupancy rates. Q: What’s Nairobi currently like as a business travel destination? A: Nairobi continues to develop in infrastructure, health care and advanced telecommunication. There are many upcoming opportunities for SMEs. It is a vibrant city with warm and friendly people. Q: What are your thoughts on the improvements made to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport? A: The airport is now organised and well presented. Security has been improved and things run more smoothly and efficiently. As a traveller the arrival experience has definitely been enhanced. The new terminal has made reduced baggage clearance and claim time, allowing passengers to continue with their travels much faster. The organisation of arrivals and departures has been enhanced. The VIP lounges have also made a positive difference to the airport experience. Q: What tips do you have for first-time business travellers to Nairobi? A: Identify the area in which you wish to do business as this determines your choice of hotel.  This will also help you avoid the unpredictable traffic, which requires careful planning on your part to ensure you make it to your appointments on time. The weather is equatorial – warm and wet – so plan accordingly. The city has a lot of excursions in close proximity like Giraffe Manor, the Nairobi National Museum and the National Park. Nairobi also has various entertainment options to suit every pocket. You can change Rands into Kenyan Shillings at the airport; Euros and British Pounds are also accepted. Although Swahili is the most commonly spoken language, English is widely spoken. It is always good to know the basic greetings in Swahili – jambo (hello) and asante sana (thank you). Q: What is key to making a hotel work in Nairobi? A: Personalised service, well trained, warm and friendly staff, security and consistency. Q: Terrorist activity has had a big impact on travel to Kenya in recent years. Do you feel the country is now coming out of that slump, or is travel still down? A: The country is now stabilised and business is back to normal. Travel has picked up, even for leisure segment in the game parks. Q: Which industries are showing the biggest growth in Kenya this year? A: telecommunications, insurance, real estate, construction, agriculture and ecommerce, to name a few. Q: Are there any international hotel trends you’ve identified that you would like to apply to your hotel property? A: Personalised service is very important to guests. And they appreciate consistency in the services they receive. I’ve also noticed an interest wi-fi being provided in hotel transfers – people want to be able to connect as soon as possible when arriving at their destination. There is growing trend of digitalising restaurant menus and handing customers tablets as they sit down. This certainly does make it easier and cheaper to keep menus up-to-date, even if the initial cost of purchasing the hardware is high.