Luxury hoteliers are counting a good season as holidaymakers favour hotel rooms over self-catering Airbnbs this holiday.
Last year, many Kenyans preferred booking secluded Airbnbs in destinations where they were unlikely to come into contact with others humans—except family members, chefs, and butlers.
Diani Reef Beach Resort & Spa managing director Bobby Kamani says the hotel is fully booked for the Easter holiday that they are experiencing a shortage of rooms from April 13 to 19.
“80 percent of the guests are domestic and from the region while 20 percent are international. This is a welcome change in comparison to last year when we were also full during Easter, but had cancellations due to the inter-county lockdown implemented just days before Easter 2021,” he said.
At Radisson Blu Arboretum, the hotel apartments are almost full.
“This Easter we are doing 70 percent of occupancy. Last Easter, we were down to around 20 percent. There has been a major improvement,” says Randy Ngala, the marketing and communications manager.
“Then there is a high number of locals who will be coming to dine and for the Easter brunch,” he said, adding that they are now receiving guests from the UK, Middle East, South Africa, and the East African region.
“The bigger percentage of guests are from the UAE,” he adds.
At Fairmont Hotels, Mehdi Morad, the country general manager of Fairmont Hotels and Resorts says Fairmont the Norfolk in Nairobi which just reopened is eyeing staycations as many holidaymakers have shelved travel plans over fuel shortages.
“Easter is normally one of the seasons that people and families travel a lot, especially upcountry. As it happens now, considering the shortage of fuel many people won’t be able to travel by car and that’s why we opted for the staycation,” Mr Morad says.
“However, we are not expecting a big number, but election season will be a very busy time for a hotel like Norfolk,” he adds.
At their Maasai Mara hotel, Fairmont Mara Safari Club, the general manager says it is fully booked.
“We have done a package for three nights, two days and it’s sold like crazy. There are no rooms left. We posted the Easter package deal at the end of March and by last week we were fully booked,” he said.
“One hotel that I feel is missing is Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club because there are so many requests. It’s one of Kenyans’ favourite destinations for Easter. People have been calling in about the hotel, but we are yet to reopen it,” he said.
David Wandamu, the food and beverages manager at Sarova Panafric in Nairobi says normally for city hotels, Easter is not a busy period because many residents travel, either upcountry or to other hotels and resorts at the Coast or Maasai Mara.
“However, there are still quite many people who come on Good Friday for the special four-course meal with Samawati band playing in the background. Then there is the big Easter brunch which is by the poolside, with live cooking which is a crowd-puller,” he says, adding that partnerships with Jack Daniels whisky for brunch and a children’s special menu elevates the dining experience.
“We are quite booked for the brunch, but Kenyans love last-minute bookings and walk-ins so we expect to still get some more guests on the day. 90 percent of our guests are local whereas 10 percent are both regional and international,” he said.
Hotels say they will still adhere to the Covid-19 restrictions, providing hand sanitizer, social distance and staff wearing masks.
At Hemingways, Richard Kimenyi, the general manager says the hotel is back in business as usual and observes protocols like serving food covered with cloth and buffet zone protected by sneeze guards .
“The entire staff still wear masks though the guests do not have to wear them,” he said, adding that the Karen-based hotel too is betting on staycations and the special Easter brunch which has more offers than the usual Sunday brunch. “This is because we have special dishes like crocodile and tandoori /Indian dishes stations and special welcome drink and for the children we have the chocolate, sweet corner,” Mr Kimenyi said.
Occupancy-wise, they are at 60 percent but “we all know Kenyans make last-minute bookings.”
Mercy Muhindi of Safari Park says the local market continues to be their biggest support group so far.
As Kenyans seek to enjoy the holiday, one thing they will be happy about is that buffet is back. During the pandemic, the hotels had to remove the favourite buffets that have been best-sellers and tend to attract more diners. “Deep in the pandemic, everything had to be individually done but right now at least we are back to buffet serving, platters can be shared, and all,” adds Ms Muhindi.
If you are staying at home, you can plan an elaborate dinner. According to Park Inn by Radisson Chef Emmanuel Aluda, pork should be a must on your menu.