Nairobi targets more space as visitors seen hitting 5 million

DN JW Marriott 2703

Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism took centre stage at the official opening of the JW Marriott Hotel on Tuesday where President William Ruto was the chief guest.

In the last two years, Nairobi has hosted several global meetings that have contributed to increased earnings and bookings as the hospitality industry puts more emphasis on the business traveller.

The JW Marriott Hotel is the latest addition to Nairobi’s grand hospitality portfolio boosting an exclusive view of the city as it becomes the tallest hotel in the city with 35 storeys.

“MICE has registered massive expansion as more delegates flock to the country for events like the Kenya Business Forum, Africa Climate Summit, East African Tourism Expo, Magical Travel Kenya Expo, United Nations Habitat Assembly on Urban Development Agenda, United Nations Environment Assembly among many other events, regional and global attractions,” the President said.

State projects

Dr Ruto added that the construction of the conference centre at the Bomas of Kenya is almost complete and will add a 1,200-bed capacity in the city.

He urged investors to take an interest in the hospitality industry as tourist numbers continue to grow, creating a need for hospitality facilities, adding that hotel occupancy in Nairobi currently stands at between 90 and 100 percent.

“There are not enough rooms for the kind of demand for conferencing for Nairobi and the continent. That is why the Nairobi County Government is building a convention centre right in the middle of the city at what we call Green Park today,” said Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja at the event.

The Green Park Bus Terminus failed to achieve its purpose of moving matatus and buses out of the Central Business District after trials to get the project started were futile.

He added that this demand is a result of the number of agencies that are already in Nairobi and others such as UNICEF and UNFPA that have expressed their interest in setting up international headquarters in the city.


The hotel has 315 guestrooms and is expected to draw in more opportunities for the city for conferencing with eight event spaces with the grand ballroom hosting up to 800 guests. JW Marriott is the second of Marriott International’s luxury portfolio in Kenya after JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge opened in February last year.

“We want to expand on conferencing. It is an opportunity to make Kenya the African hub for meetings and conferences,” said Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary (CS) Alfred Mutua.

The CS announced that they are opening campuses of Utalii College to have readily trained hospitality staff to accommodate the new facilities opening soon.

Visitor numbers

The president said that by 2027, the projection is that Kenya should receive five million tourists annually through diverse tourism products such as sports, culture, agriculture and medical tourism.

Currently, tourist arrivals to Kenya stand at about 1.5 million visitors, according to Ministry of Tourism statistics.

During the period under review, holidays remained the main purpose of entry closing at 338,509 (39.9 percent). Business, meetings and conferences came in second with 226,908 arrivals, a growth of 26.8 percent while visiting family and friends was third with 213,417 arrivals at 25.2 percent.

“In 2022, earnings from inbound tourism rose from Sh353 billion with bed occupancy rates rising by 27 per cent to 6.4 million from 5 million,” he said.

Global ranking

Earlier in the year, Lonely Planet recently ranked Nairobi as the top city to visit in 2024 topping Paris, Montreal and Jakarta.

“Kenya's capital is staking its claim as a global centre of culture, sizzling with unmissable travel experiences,” the travel guide read.

Mr Ruto emphasised that there is no longer any visa requirement for any country to visit Kenya as he promised on December 12 and says that it takes less than a few hours to obtain the electronic travel authorisation (eTA) on the website.

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