Personal Finance

Singapore firm targets wealthy renters with Kilimani apartments


The sitting room of a two-bedroom apartment at the newly opened Somerset Westview Nairobi on April 27, 2022, in Kilimani. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

For years, hotels have been the go-to option for travellers, but changing habits are driving growth in the serviced apartment industry.

Last week, lodging owner-operator, Ascott, a Singapore company, opened its first property in Nairobi’s Kilimani as it seeks to expand to Africa.

Vincent Miccolis, the Ascott’s managing director for Middle East, Africa, Turkey and India said Nairobi paves an entry into the larger African serviced property market.

“As Ascott, we started very strongly in South East Asia and Europe and now we are getting strong in the Middle East. Africa was the missing jigsaw and we needed to be in Africa. Kenya was a fantastic opportunity and it is a gateway for us to start in Africa, in a mature market and very well catered for,” he said.

Somerset Westview Nairobi has 162 units with a mixture of one and two-bedroom apartments. Ascott says it is targeting people moving in and out of Kenya, coming for work in embassies, seeking long stays, expatriates, business executives on both short and long-term assignments and travellers on holiday.

Ashwin Vijayaseker, the general manager of Somerset said they picked Kilimani because it is a neighbourhood that is well known and is near the City Centre, and many organisations.

The Singaporean firm joins the holiday-lets market turf wars pitting hotels and Airbnb, which have become favourites for many travellers.

In response to whether they anticipate stiff competition from Airbnbs which are many in Kilimani and its environs, Mr Miccolis said that Airbnb, an online marketplace for homestays for vacation rentals, will always be part of the environment.

“There is room for everyone. We are providing something different from Airbnb. We provide the services of a hotel with the comfort of your home,” he said. On expansion, he said they “are discussing and researching more properties with the same style, particularly in Nairobi.”

But why set up a serviced apartment instead of a hotel, just like other international organisations?

“In apartments, guests have more space to live in than in a traditional hotel room. Serviced apartments differ by brand and location, but with most, you can expect a much more generous living area, including your kitchen— elements you don’t traditionally find in hotel rooms,” Mr Vijayaseker said.

“Hotels tend to be located in centralised and convenient areas too, like near major attractions or airports, while serviced apartments can be located in nearly any residential area within a city. This is the reason why we opened Somerset in Kilimani,” he said.

Ascott’s investments span more than 200 cities in 30 countries. It has about 76,000 apartments and over 57,000 units under development, In Kenya, Somerset guests have access to restaurants, a rooftop bar, a resident lounge, a pool, a gym, a playroom and a meeting room.

“But if you’re looking for just one night’s accommodation, a hotel may be the best option for you. We are long-staying oriented, but also take the staycation concept. The staycation concept is growing worldwide and we can see the concept will work very well in Kenya,” Mr Vijayaseker said.

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