If you have been around the University of Nairobi area, you must have noticed a group of young students, usually foreigners trooping in and out of the YMCA hostels. There are also students from the University of Nairobi and other surrounding institutions who reside in these hostels on a short term basis. As you walk into town, adjacent to the Nakumatt Lifestyle, there is the Kenya Comfort Hotel at the corner of Monrovia and Muindi Mbingu streets. It also has a branch of the hotel along Milimani Road.
There is also the Heron Portico Hotel along Milimani Road. In short, there is a growing number of short-stay hotels cropping up around the Nairobi CBD area, along the highways linking the capital city with its corridor towns and around the airports and airstrips. I am not sure whether the newly opened Weston Hotel along Langata Road, opposite Wilson Airport fits the bill.
Have you walked along Ngong’ Road and noticed the upcoming development across China Centre? Dubbed Serenita Apartments, these apartments are going to be furnished so well that business travellers in Nairobi on short-term assignments will have a place to stay.
What are we trying to say? The hospitality sector in Nairobi is shifting gradually. The establishments we have mentioned above are but a few of the ways real estate in hospitality is changing in order to attract visitors, students and business travellers who are in the city on short term basis compared to those who prefer spending their holidays in furnished apartments and larger five-star hotels.
“What are these people looking for?” You may ask. If you map such budget hotels on Google Maps, you will realize that the airports are becoming a centre of such growth. Look around Wilson and JKIA Airports. Where these hotels are not in the periphery of the airports, they are located in areas where accessing the airports will be easy owing to the fact that one won’t have to go through the CBD to catch their flight in good time.
In the CBD, if you look at Ambassadeur Hotel, it is technically a mixed-use development. There are shops at the ground floor area and rooms above them. Some have pubs and restaurants operating in the same premises in order to provide an array of services to the occupants.
There are old commercial buildings in the CBD being converted into small hotels. Just behind Nakumatt Lifestyle, you must have noticed that the buildings are being converted from the old shops into small, neat hotels. I have seen two or three mushrooming in the area. I haven’t been into one but I am quite sure that they provide the much needed basic services crucial to the operations of a hotel: a place to work, a bathroom and a place to sleep.
The YMCA and YWCA hostels are also catering for the students who visit the country on community service activities or on vacation. They also cater for business people who are very keen on saving costs. If they can walk into the CBD rather than hire a cab, then their needs are met.
Ideally, if you inquire deeper, you will realize that, unlike Hilton and Inter-Continental hotels, these establishments work towards cutting down the visitors’ costs. They may outsource pub and restaurant services to other entities while maintaining a lean staff.
You cannot ignore this while thinking of investing in a hotel. There are jobs created in many ways. If you invested in such, you can think of including a sauna, a gym, a swimming pool maybe or plush gardens which can be used to create revenue from either the community around the facility or even the visitors themselves.
Does this, therefore, mean that furnished apartments and the main hotels are under threat due to the growing competition? Why, for instance, is Village Market, despite having the Tribe Hotel operating right beside its expansive complex, putting up a 187-room budget hotel?
[Image Credit: Panoramio]