Hybrid hospitality comes of age in Nairobi post-Covid

Rooftop bar, restaurant and hotel room at Dusit Princess Hotel Residences, Nairobi. [Wainaina Wambu, Standard]

To stay a cut above the rest, hotels are re-imagining their traditional set-up to accommodate both professional and personal stays.

This has led to the hybrid hospitality concept touted as a mixture of space for co-working, meetings, events and living.

The Dusit Princess Hotel Residences Nairobi located at the affluent Westlands is one such example that is stepping up competition in hosting business and leisure travellers.

“There’s a growing demand in Nairobi for this hybrid hospitality model that can cater for a wide variety of guests,” said the property’s general manager Daniel Chao.

The serviced hotel opened in March and is part of Thailand’s Dusit International global expansion. It features 100 spacious deluxe hotel rooms and apartments. These are a hybrid collection of one-bedroom apartments, studio apartments and deluxe hotel rooms.

Mr Chao notes that the property’s contemporary design meets the needs of a diverse clientele ranging from short to long-stay guests.

The opening of the hotel is on the back of a recovering hospitality industry that was heavily battered by the coronavirus pandemic amid global restrictions on travel and physical meetings.

The pandemic also spurred remote and flexible work structures that have since forced those in the hospitality industry to rethink their business models. 

The economy is also opening up with Nairobi being a key regional hub that attracts global business travellers.

The upmarket Westlands has since established itself as a prime business hub hosting Kenya’s top companies, multinationals and even the world’s best luxury vehicle dealers.

A recent report by property manager Knight Frank showed that Westlands remains the most sought-after office location in the capital. It has the largest share of grade A commercial office space compared to other competing locations such as Upper Hill, Kilimani and Mombasa Road.

Chao says that compared to the rest of the city’s nodes, Westlands stands out as an ideal place to conduct business.

“It’s an outstanding location that’s quiet and a sanctuary for guests. Westlands is also easily accessible to facilities such as shopping malls and even the airport on account of the expressway,” noted Mr Chao.

Chao also says that owing to Westland’s proximity to key amenities and infrastructure, guests and residents can easily explore Nairobi and other Kenyan heritage sites conveniently.

Dusit Princess Hotel Residences Nairobi has small meeting rooms to provide for intimate and personalised interactions and presentations. They have inbuilt sound systems and huge screens making them ideal for video and teleconferencing. Chao notes that meetings and things like training are just a small part of a broader picture.

“It would be a mistake and there’d be no reason for us to focus on a narrow segment, we have this very broad appeal to a large demographic,” he said.

The rooms also provide a proper working set-up with high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows drawing in natural light and offering splendid views. Chao is not worried about competitors in their market segment including online platforms such as Airbnb which has gained popularity in the recent past. 

“There’s business for everybody, having said that hospitality is a competitive business there’s no room for people who underperform and you have to be the best,” he said.

As part of Dusit International, Chao said that the property was part of the hotel chain’s global expansion strategy.

“One of the goals of this hotel is to be a sort of advertisement to facilitate the future growth of the hotel in Kenya and the region,” he said.

He noted that most of the biggest challenges for their success were behind them such as Covid-19 and getting the hotel ready and competitive amid rising demand. He says the guests are a mixture of both locals and foreigners and “for the best, there’s always business” owing to the positive feedback since their opening.  

“It’s still early to talk about the trends but it’s a mix … we’ve had guests who’ve stayed with us since we launched and others are walk-ins, we have families, individual travellers retirees, and staycations. We’ve had bookings online and from corporates,” he said. 

Guests at the facility are set to also enjoy a wide range of facilities, including a heated swimming pool, and an ultra-modern rooftop gym.

Dusit Princess Hotel Residences Nairobi has also added two outlets to Nairobi’s food and beverage scene including the Olive Restaurant (all-day dining) and the rooftop hangout Aviary Lounge Bar. Busy travellers also have options for ‘grab-and-go’ for things like pastries and sandwiches.