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Dusit D2: The heavenly green city in Nairobi

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Ruth Lubembe | November 30th 2014

Tucked away in the exclusive, ultra-modern 14 Riverside cul-de-sac is Nairobi’s latest hotel — Dusit D2.

I was immediately curious about the name and learned that Dusit is a word derived by King Rama V of Thailand, who died in the 1910. It encompassed the Utopian concept of a garden in heaven and can be translated to mean “green city in heaven”.

Given that Nairobi was once known as the Green City in the Sun and the “place of cool waters,” it seemed fitting to bring the first Dusit Hotel brand in East Africa to Nairobi (there is one in Cairo).

The Dusit International headquarters is in Bangkok, and they run and own about 25 hotels worldwide. Their hotels are typically located in “show-off” spots such as 14 Riverside.

The Dusit brands include Dusit Deverana, which focuses on relaxation complete with a spa-like experience. Dusit Princess offers quick Five-Star service while Dusit D2, a second-generation brand, is not very large, and is all about contemporary art.

Allan Ochsner, the Front Office Manager, says the D2 target market is young, wealthy businesspeople with “a passion for fashion and design, but not too formal.”

The 101-room hotel, which opened its doors in September, benefits from the huge daily human traffic — 3,000 people according to Allan — that passes through 14 Riverside.

Lunchtime is a busy period as businessmen and women grab a bite to eat in between meetings.

The hotel has two restaurants to choose from. Soi Thai is their signature dining area, serving Thai street food. Allan says you need reservations to eat in the cool, quiet exotically furnished restaurant that is situated across the road from the hotel’s main entrance.

Emulate Kenyan cuisine

Soko is their main dining option and tries to emulate Kenyan cuisine. Allan says this is the place to enjoy some wimbi uji and ugali as well as a more continental spread.

The Caesar Salad with bacon I order is refreshing and the bacon is actually visible! The Zing Lounge and Bar (where I have a freshly squeezed double shot of lime juice mixed with soda water) is airy and bright, with the very latest in furniture and furnishings.

Allan tells me the chandelier surrounding the bar is the heaviest in East Africa, carrying about 2,500 bulbs. Outside and around the corner is the Rouge Deck where everything, as the name suggest, comes in red.

That includes a red swimming pool and a red tree!

Next to the deck is the Deverana Spa in truly Thai style — serene and dimly lit, with quietly elegant murals on the walls and seven treatment rooms complete with baths and massage tables.

Allan confirms that all the staff are Thai and have spa specialist credentials.

Allan, whose exotic looks and accent belie his half-Kenyan heritage, talks about a “D2 DNA” that helps them recruit staff and inculcate the “D2 culture” in them.

“We don’t necessarily look for educational qualifications or experience because you can get that anywhere,” he says, and adds that they look for certain qualities including “care, attention to detail, sincerity, reliability...”

He gives an example of a male host at the hotel entrance who originally came looking for a job as a driver.

Staff pay attention

“During the interview I thought he had something we could work with besides putting him behind the wheel of one of our vehicles,” says Allan.

“So I asked him if we could try something different and here he is, doing very well as a host!”

Allan speaks from experience — he originally wanted to study acoustic engineering before a chance visit to a career exhibition in Switzerland found him at the hotel stand. He ended up studying hotel, tourism and philosophy in university.

He went on to train and work at the Grand Hyatt in Washington before moving to Seoul, Vancouver, Zurich and even the Grand Hyatt in Dubai. He returned to Kenya mid 2010 and has worked in several hotels in the Coast region and Zanzibar.

He says Dusit D2 staff are constantly being trained to value the individual standing in front of them at any given time. “It’s all about the guest experience,” he says, adding that at Dusit D2, it is unlikely that a guest would have to repeat anything because the staff pay attention the first time.

Whereas most hotels begin their room classification with ‘standard’ and end at ‘deluxe’, Dusit starts at Dluxe, upgrades to Dlight, moves on to Dvine and peaks at Dsire. At $400 (Sh36,000) a night for a Dluxe room, expectations are understandably high, and Dusit D2 does not disappoint.

No overbooking policy

Allan says since the hotel — which has a firm no overbooking policy — opened two months ago, they have had several repeat guests. This is despite the fact that the Dsire suites cost $700 a night (Sh63,000).

The rooms are cosy yet modern and services include inbuilt ironing boards and irons, and speakers in the bathroom so you do not miss out on the news or any emergency announcements from the front desk! There are also private conference rooms for hotel residents, and a reading room.

With the wave of insecurity that has hit the country recently, one wonders how far an establishment like Dusit D2 can go.

James Scott, the sales and marketing director, does not seem very worried.

“I believe security and the perceived threat is very relative,” he says. “Only recently, international media were suggesting that Kenya could be at threat from Ebola, while it was a reality in their own countries!

“Children are shooting each other in their schools and their capitals are facing similar if not greater potential threat from different extremist groups around the world.

“What I can say is that Dusit D2 Nairobi is a very secure environment with several layers of security within both the hotel and the compound we share with other prominent businesses.”

At the rate new hotels are coming up in Nairobi and other part of the country, it is not hard to agree with James.

 

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