By Patrick Githinji
Fairmont Hotel has mounted a big push in the battle for customers by launching a massive facelift to the five-star property ahead of an expected growth in tourists’ numbers.
Competition and optimism over a potential boom in tourism business and actualisation of the East African Common Market Protocol have driven several hotels across the country to renovate their facilities in readiness for more visitors given Nairobi’s expected new status as a key business hub.
Executives at Fairmont say the chain has invested close to Sh100 million in the renovation exercise.
"The earlier renovation was targeting bars and meeting rooms and we can say that it has worked well for us by increasing our competitiveness," says Fairmont Hotels and Resort Executive Vice President for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa David Roberts.
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Robert says phase two of the project will target guest rooms and that the renovations are part of their strategy to keep the hotel pleasing to customers in order to maintain market share.
The establishment of the East African Common Market Protocol that guarantees free movement of goods, services, labour and capital within the region, a planned common currency slated for 2012 and full political federation by 2015, would further make the region lucrative for investments.
The expected influx of investors and Nairobi’s strategic position as a regional hub also influenced decision to refurbish the facility.
To position well and enjoy other benefits that will come with integration, the hotel’s executives understand that it would be vital for entities that don’t have regional footprints like Fairmont to also embark on a regional expansion exercise in order to remain competitive in the market.
"It is true we don’t have hotels in Uganda and Tanzania. We truly understand the need of a Fairmont Brand in these countries due to good business prospects. But for now I can’t announce any deal but we are working to fill our Kenyan hotels. We understand the need for loyal customers and we are talking to them," says Robert.
Robert told Financial Journal that since they don’t have hotels in all countries, the chain uses the opportunity it has in areas where it is present to learn and understand their competitors.
Although regional expansion is not in Fairmount’s thoughts, the strategy has worked well for financial institutions and has significantly contributed to growth of banks like Equity and the Kenya Commercial Bank by tapping into regional trade opportunities that are currently being enjoyed by the more highly represented players in the market.
The hospitality industry in the country has in the past few years recorded phenomenal growth, a move that has made the sector attractive to both local and international investors.
Robert is optimistic that contrary to the first three years that followed the post-election violence, the hotel business is picking up in Kenya.
"We are confident about the market and hope that occupancy levels will greatly increase in the near future," he says.
This growth, according to Robert, will be driven by increased activities by both companies and tourists. Regional integration, he adds, is a good move that will help facilitate a new supply of hotel rooms in the market.
"In terms of leisure I can say we have positioned ourselves to become the market leader after a successive renovation of our facilities in Maasai Mara and Mount Kenya region. The future looks rosy for us," he says.
Fairmont says it is developing a Global campaign to market the facilities. The marketing campaign to promote these venues is being executed at the regional level.
Besides focusing on traditional steams for revenue, Fairmont says it will also be targeting those coming for meetings, conferences or conventions and exhibitions, which fall under the ambit of conference tourism.