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Marriott to run luxury hotel in Nairobi

Tourism secretary Phyllis Kandie with AVIC international chairman Wu Guangquan (left) and Nairobi governor Evans Kidero (right), among other dignitaries, at the launch of the  project housing the hotel in Westlands, Nairobi, in October 2014. PHOTO | FILE
Tourism secretary Phyllis Kandie with AVIC international chairman Wu Guangquan (left) and Nairobi governor Evans Kidero (right), among other dignitaries, at the launch of the project housing the hotel in Westlands, Nairobi, in October 2014. PHOTO | FILE 

Luxury hotel management firm JW Marriott is set to run a hotel tower which is being put up by Chinese construction firm Avic International Real Estate Limited in Westlands, Nairobi.

The two firms Thursday signed a management service agreement for the hotel that is expected to be complete in four years.

“Kenya is the fastest growing economy in East Africa and has high levels of education therefore a pool of talent to provide,” said Karim Cheltout, vice-president for Africa international lodging development at Marriott.

“There has been enormous effort by the private and public sector in the hospitality industry with the current growth expected to continue growing which is why Marriott is here.”

The 35-floor five-star hotel is expected to have 315 guest rooms and 50 serviced apartments and a 760 square-metre ballroom.

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Marriott is also looking for opportunities in other regions in the country, including Mombasa.

Nairobi has established itself as the hub for business travellers in the region, attracting new investments by international and local hospitality firms.

More than 10 firms have in the past one year alone completed or announced their entry into the local hospitality market, growing the bed space by over 2,500 rooms.

Visitor numbers to Kenya are expected to increase from 1.9 million in 2012 to 2.4 million in 2017 with the growth driven by China, Russia, the Middle East, India and neighbouring African nations, according to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Marriott has had intentions of entering the local market for more than five years, with reports indicating that the chain had scouts here as early as 2009 before finally settling on the Avic property.

Avic started building the Sh10 billion project mid last year following approval by the county government.

The property will cover 250,000 square metres comprising an office block, a hotel tower and four apartment blocks that will sit on 7.5 acres.

Increased competition in the industry saw Nairobi luxury hotel Villa Rosa Kempinski file a petition with National Environment Management Authority (Nema) in September 2015 halting the construction of the Avic property temporarily.

The Nema tribunal threw out the case on grounds that it was filed outside the 60-day window following the award of an approval. The Chinese company on December 18 got the go-ahead to continue construction after the Nema tribunal dismissed Kempinski’s case.

Kempinski filed another suit last month in the Environment and Lands Division of the High Court, this time seeking to overturn the tribunal’s decision.

Kempinski has enjoyed exclusivity in the prime area since 2013 and will have to battle with the increased competition once the Avic project is completed.

The Avic hotel borders ARM Cement headquarters, Kempinski and the Mirage Towers. Avic last month said Kempinski’s action saw it lose Sh20 million for each of the 93 days that construction stalled awaiting the ruling.

Avic had received the necessary approvals from City Hall last July after it paid permit fees amounting to Sh97.2 million.

JW Marriott will join Pullman, Radisson and Hilton, among others, in Nairobi’s upmarket hotel business.

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