Conference tourism boosts city hoteliers

Tourists alight from an aeroplane. Conference tourism is the largest and fastest growing segment of the modern tourism sector. Photo/FILE

Increased demand for conference tourism in Nairobi has seen hotels record high occupancy rates as competition increases with the opening of new properties.

The demand from corporate as well as international conference has seen properties in the city record good business in the first quarter, a trend that is expected to continue the rest of the year.

Sector players say that the construction of the new properties is expected to give the city more capacity to feed the appetite.

“Occupancy is looking good and is expected to continue for the rest of the year,” said Mike Macharia, the chief executive of Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers, adding that the average occupancy rate for the city hotels has been 70 per cent this year, with the March and April being good months.

May to July is expected to be busy for the properties driven by conferences around the city, meeting in the properties and business travellers, he says

Tribe Hotel, which opened its doors 18 months ago in Village Market, is set to open a new conferencing facility next month.

The facility, which will feature top of the range technology, will enable the property sit at least 100 people compared to the current 30.

At least 80 per cent of its business is driven by corporate clients.

“The response has been good both from the local and international clientele since we opened,” said Mr Hooman Ehsani, the property developer’

Hotels like Tribe, Oleserani and Crowne Plaza, the newer players in the business, have quickly moved in to help the city build its capacity with the extra beds and conferencing facilities.

They have absorbed the supply that saw the industry cry out due to lack of enough bed capacity in Nairobi before the slump in the sector in 2008.

“These hotels do not seem to be hurting the existing properties, they are absorbing the demand that has been in place and could not be satisfied previously,” said Mr Macharia.

Adding that the opening up of Tribe, which was recently recognized as one of the world’s top 100 hotels by Conde Nast Traveller – a global magazine, has not changed the market share analysis in the city but has instead helped grow the city’s capacity.

Crowne Plaza, which opened its doors in March, is also expected to perform quite well due to its location in the busy Upper Hill area.

New properties are also expected to open up in the city including Sankara in Westlands and Radisson in Upper Hill.

These properties are expected to increase the bed capacity in the city that could see the capital attract more corporate business.

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