It’s business unusual as hospitality sector changes

MV Albatros cruise ship as it sailed along the Kilindini habour last year (Photo: Gideon Maundu)

For anyone who has ever had a fantasy dream of being a pilot or simply had a fetish for flight, this is your party. Picture this; you are indulging in entertainment therapy, chowing down on trendy food pavilions of African cuisine as you sip your favourite craft beer or cocktails.

It is a cool night in an airport set-up where flight arrivals and delays are not an issue. A band is playing live music as airhostesses usher you in. A captain is already navigating this airplane; not literally, but as a spin deejay in-charge of the nightlife. Rays of neon disco lights are flashing over the unique art sculptured windows over your assigned seat. This is not a scene from an action movie. It is a new entertainment hub soon to be launched in Kitengela, Kajiado County. Call it Air 034.

Even as the Covid-19 leaves the entertainment industry reeling, some investors especially those in the clubs and restaurant sector are taking advantage of the current business closures to upgrade their businesses as they look forward to hoped brighter days. A month ago, Emmanuel Ng’etich, a Kitengela businessman in the hospitality business, caused a stir as he led a contingent of police outrides in escorting a grounded Boeing 720 airplane from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to Kitengela where the ‘bird’ has become a monumental attraction for the locals. The over 56-year old airplane whose structure is still intact will soon be the latest state-of-the-art recreation centre in East Africa that will offer a sensational culinary journey and taste experience as well as unlimited entertainment to all fun loves.

“Kenya Airways offered the bid and I decided to try out hoping to purchase the plane for what would look like a crazy idea,” says Ng’etich, who confesses that he has always loved the fine things in life among them good music and a fine drink.

“During a tour to Bangkok some few years ago, I was mesmerized to see this entertainment and shopping hub that has been designed around a grounded Lockheed TriStar at Chang Chui. This TrisStar is a genuine one, a jet that had been flying for Thai Sky Airlines before it was grounded in Don Mueang where it was ‘was rescued’ as it was waiting to be scrapped to Chang Chui, its current location. Right now, it has been named Na-Oh, a daily ‘grounded flight’ that is whisking passengers off on culinary adventures and pleasure,” the businessman who is also behind one of the new club lounges in Kitengela christened 034 indulges.

“When I heard of this Kenya Airways bid, the unforgettable memories I had experienced in Bangkok came to life and I immediately decided to use this opportunity to change the entertainment scene in the country. I won the bid and paid almost a million shillings for the old plane that I later learned would even cost me more transporting it from the airport to Kitengela – over 25 kilometers away. I am glad this dream is unfolding as we recreate it into a luxury and amusement market for all,” optimistically and exuding rare enthusiasm, he charges.

The design of the new wonder encompasses an interior with a special lounge (the First Class), a business class lounge and the cockpit where services will be offered by hostesses once one books a ticket for their space online. The outside will be an airport experience with all sorts of entertainment amusements being offered.

“We will be dedicating some days for learners who will be able to access the property for learning, inspiration and amusement purposes without charges. We will also be screening movies and allowing artistes to shoot their films and music videos as well as TV show. Basically, this amusement investment that we are calling Air 034 – The Pride of Kajiado – is not a rich man’s affair but a facility for all to enjoy as we push the entertainment and lifestyle industry to the next level. This will not only transform the entertainment industry here but also the way people perceive and consume entertainment across the region,” charms an upbeat Ng’etich adding; “You know, there is no rehearsal in life.”

It is not only the Kitengela amusement facility that is set to remold the entertainment industry. A Mombasa-based investor is already exploiting a cruise ship vocational excursion venture plan that is meant to take off in August.

With a projected capacity of 1500 passengers per cruise, the water vessel will be the first of its kind in Kenya and is expected to reawaken business around the Coastal strip that has been on a lull since terror attacks hit the region about eight years ago killing business on the then popular beach hotels and the entire Coastal front.

“This will be an epic carnival sort of party affair that will see passengers cruise across the Indian Ocean for 14 days. It should be able to diversify the way East African’s view entertainment and adventure by providing vacation lovers with an international standard of cruise experience,” says Mohammed Ali who is part of the technicians working on the project.

“Some of the on-board facilities will include casinos and shops that will only be open when the ship is at sea, a fitness centre, a Spa, a cinema theatre, an indoor swimming pool, restaurants, lounges, clubs, disco halls, children recreational facilities and pool tables among other sports facilities.

“Once a passenger purchases a ticket, which must be done about a month before the cruise, they will be entitled to accommodation facilities complete with room service by housekeepers, all the meals and buffet available in the common restaurant as well as pool and gym facilities among other health, fitness and entertainment provisions,” informs Ali adding that this will be also an opportunity for people to meet new friends and enlarge their view of the world by exchanging experiences.

Most of the upcoming entertainment investments are mainly targeting middle class high-end spenders who have a disposable income and who love to keep their outings private. This is being defined by the kind of drinks – most bottled services estimated at about Sh10,000 per round - and food specialties they are focusing on. Though the music and general entertainment could vary from one joint to the other, genres such as the 90s funk and hip hop, jazz and rhumba seems to be more favourable with this lot.