Food & Drinks

Hotels look beyond dinners to woo customers

hotel

The wide varied cuisine during the launch of Live Inn restaurant at Park Inn by Radisson at Westlands on September 8, 2017. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NMG

Summary

  • The Christmas season is in full swing in Kenya’s high-end hotels, as hoteliers report diners and travellers have returned in near pre-pandemic numbers.
  • International tourists had made early bookings, before the new coronavirus Omicron strain hit, as they seek to revel in the festive spirit at Kenya’s city hotels, beaches, and game parks.

In this pandemic season, establishments have kicked their innovation into high gear to ensure stand-out services without compromising on guests safety

The Christmas season is in full swing in Kenya’s high-end hotels, as hoteliers report diners and travellers have returned in near pre-pandemic numbers.

International tourists had made early bookings, before the new coronavirus Omicron strain hit, as they seek to revel in the festive spirit at Kenya’s city hotels, beaches, and game parks.

Before the pandemic hit, the focus has been on giving diners memorable Christmas and New Year brunches and dinners. But now, some hotels are looking beyond the food and incorporating interesting additions to woo more customers.

At Nairobi’s Serena, it is the live Christmas show by Nairobi United Choir that the management is riding on to pull crowds. In addition to this, the hotel hopes to bring cheer after a dull year with high tea on Christmas Eve.

Nairobi Serena Hotel Deputy General Manager Jinia O’kubusu says they have also tweaked the high tea, a slight shift from the traditional British one, to make it more festive.

“We had to tweak it a little so that we can at least have people enjoy the festive season,” she notes.

Besides the delectable scones, sandwiches, and scones which are the hallmark of afternoon tea, the chef will serve smoked salmon sandwiches with peppered cream cheese, Christmas fruit cake slices and fruit tartlets, muffins, meat samosas, vegetable samosas, marmalade, strawberry jam, and whipped cream with different teas.

“If this sounds like your perfect evening, why wouldn’t it?” Poses Ms O’kubusu.

serena

A selection of flavored teas accompanying a high tea serving at the Nairobi Serena Hotel ahead of this Friday's Christmas Carols. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Nairobi Serena which has three restaurants hopes to attract staycation guests, diners who are opting to stay in the city. Mandhari, one of the restaurants that will serve a global cuisine, Aksum Bar will have perfectly mixed martinis while the Moroccan-styled Café Maghreb features a 24-hour brasserie service.

At Prideinn Hotels & Resorts in Mombasa, Christmas bookings have increased compared to last year.

“There is more confidence from travellers this year because of the lifted curfew and increased vaccination. Most of the people who will be staying with us started booking as early as October,” says Hasnain Noorani, the group managing director Prideinn Hotels & Resorts.

“Bookings were at 60 percent last year, now we have over 90 percent and the majority of customers are booking half board because they want to also experience the Mombasa streetfood {viazi karai served with spicy chutney, mishkaki, mitai, deep-fried cassava among others} and we are happy as this means they are helping promote local delicacy,” he adds.

At Park Inn by Radisson Nairobi, it is group bookings that have boosted their end year. Mr Aurelius Mukuna, the director of sales said they have seen a shift from clients booking on bed and breakfast to groups making reservations for either half board or full board.

Kenya Coast Tourism Association (KCTA) chief executive Julius Owino, said most hotels are almost fully booked with domestic tourists from Nairobi, Kisumu, Nanyuki, Eldoret, and other regions.

"This is sending a message that the focus should be on the domestic market, including tailoring the products and prices for this niche. Instead of charging high due to the international tourist's influence, establishments have adopted fair charges. We are doing well. There is a boom driven by the domestic market as families, corporate groups and individuals travel down to the coast,” he observes.

On average, most hotels in Lamu report 85 percent occupancy and expect to hit 100 percent over the Christmas weekend and New Year, thanks to direct flights from Nairobi and Mombasa.

Malindi is however struggling due to low international arrivals following the travel alerts prompted by the new coronavirus variant.

Occupancy is expected to be between 60-70 percent during the festive season, adds Mr Owino, with the destination mainly benefiting from the lack of rooms in Mombasa.

In Diani, leading facilities are reported to be fully booked.

“We are fully booked for Christmas and New Year. Most of our guests are from Nairobi,” says Sylvester Mbandi, general manager at the Baobab Beach Resort.

At Taita Hills and Salt Lick Safaris Lodge, the hotel is offering a safari package where its guests will enjoy watching wild animals.

"Domestic tourism is the lifeline for tourism in Kenya. We are 99 percent domestic reliant due to a slump in the international market. We have attractive packages after partnering with the standard gauge railway operator to ferry our tourists," says Mr Willie Mwadilo, the hotel's general manager.

With many guests already booked, most hotels say the new Omicron coronavirus variant is likely to affect them during the first quarter of 2022.

“This new Omicron is likely to affect the demand of travellers coming to Kenya next year. But we are optimistic that with no looming curfews or lockdowns, January will be good and hopefully until June/July just before August the election month and expect to pick up again in September,” says Mr Mukuna.

Most hotels have started implementing the government directive that requires them to only offer services to guests who can prove their Covid-19 vaccination.

“We are asking all our guests for prove of Covid-19 vaccination and have put up notices with a similar message at our reception desks even as we closely work with Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers (KAHC) to get clarification regarding this new directive. We are strictly observing health safety guidelines and hygiene measures to ensure our guests and staff are safe,” notes Mr Amutala.

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