Why would a technocrat with a successful career in the aviation sector ditch the skies for the hospitality industry? That question may have rung several times in the mind of Alphonse Kioko, the Harvard Business School-trained investor behind Gelian Hotel, the newest and biggest hotel in Machakos.
The eight-floor hotel is the only four star establishment in the county as well as the tallest. Opening its doors in April this year, it consists of 90 rooms including two presidential suites and four ambassadorial suites. The latest sensation in the town is the hotel’s Club Euphoria that has already hosted some of Kenya’s top artistes such as Nameless and Kidum.
Kioko knows all too well the importance of strategic business positioning. A veteran of the aviation industry for 20 years, he cut his teeth at Kenya Airways where he rose to the position of general manager in charge of Middle East and Asia where he helped to open up the region to the national carrier. In 2003, he had a stint with Precision Air as the group general manager.
“It was time to look for new horizons having conquered the skies. Behind every challenge there must be an opportunity. Be willing to risk and other investors will follow your lead,” he says. Two years ago, Kioko approached the Kenya Commercial Bank for a financing deal. According to Kioko, the bank was interested in a good proposal before agreeing to fund the project for a value he declined to disclose.
- 1 Why real estate developers must step up integrity
- 2 How to win in 2021
- 3 Low houses, big money
- 4 Rents for serviced city apartments fall in tough year
According to Kioko, Machakos was the right place to invest in a top hotel owing to what he terms as an acute shortage of good places to stay. In addition, he says there has been increased traffic from the city every now and then due to the number of entertainment and sporting activities.
During such sporting events, people have been known to look for accommodation in as far as Masii, 15 kilometres away, or in neighbouring Makueni County. “We don’t want such visitors to leave the town and head back either to Nairobi or other locations every evening. They can use the hotel as the base for exploring other tourist attractions around Machakos,” says Kioko.
A spot check by Home & Away saw a town that is growing. Though hemmed in by hills on all sides, Machakos still has room for growth with new construction projects under various stages of construction.
It must be remembered that one of Governor Alfred Mutua’s much-publicised promises was to allocate free land to upcoming investors. There was also talk of a new town being built from scratch.
However, though there is little evidence of land being dished out or a new city coming up in the area any time soon, this has not dampened the spirits of upcoming investors such as Kioko who foresee more positive developments in Machakos.
“We are close to the country’s major infrastructure projects such as the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. We are next to the proposed dual carriageway towards Konza, Kenya’s next ‘Silicon Valley.’ We want to be the pioneers of the big changes we want in the county rather than just talk of unfulfilled promises,” says Kioko.
Kioko says the construction of Gelian Hotel is not his end game as he intends to develop an even bigger hotel within Machakos that will have more amenities. Gelian has space constraints.
Still, there are a few challenges that need to be overcome for the town to attract the investment it requires. “Food production in Machakos cannot satisfy the current and projected needs of a growing town due to lack of enough water for agriculture. We also need to improve the town’s infrastructure that in turn should attract industries back to Machakos,” he says.
In the meantime, Kioko and his ilk are prepared to put their money in an area that has been in the public limelight since the advent of the counties.