Kenya: Old Kisumu hotels struggle to compete with new entrants

In its heyday, Sunset, one of the oldest iconic hotels in Kisumu and the Greater Western Region, was revered for its high-end services.

Strategically located in the leafy suburb of Milimani, near Impala Sanctuary Park, Sunset was one of the few luxury lakefront hotels in the city from the 1970s to early 1990s to be frequented by the who’s who in Kenya.

The 50-room hotel was a whirlwind of activity and was known for hosting top government officials, conferences, and the cream of society.

It offered luxurious accommodation, sumptuous meals and sumptuous comfort.

Nyanza Golf Club, Imperial, Kisumu, Milimani, Victoria, Lake Front, Vindu Bar and Mamba were the other high-end hotels then, recalls Bill Otieno, who has followed the hotel course closely.

Today, most of these hotels struggle to keep up with the rapidly changing economy and are unable to compete with new entrants.

Sunset, in particular, struggles to keep afloat. In 2016, the 44-year-old public hotel was declared bankrupt after suffering heavy cumulative losses.

In 2019, the government proposed to install an international conference center on the hotel grounds.

Plans stalled, but the hotel had to temporarily close and lay off some of its staff.

Likewise, the famous St John Manor Hotel, formerly known as the Milimani Hotel, is also on its knees, with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic only making matters worse.

The hotel was once owned by a certain Mr. Walter Ominde before its management changed.

The new administrators confirmed that operations had not yet started due to the accumulated pending invoices.

However, Risper Chichole, manager of the Sunset Hotel, said it would be modernized to revive its lost glory.

Ms Chichole says the Covid-19 pandemic has made matters worse for the hotel.

“Ownership has been transferred from the Tourism Finance Corporation (TFC) to the Kenya Development Corporation (KDC) and a committee is in place to revive the facility,” she said.

TFC wanted to rename the hotel to a luxurious 100-room lakeside hotel with a 5,000-capacity convention center. It was also planned to open on the Lake Victoria waterfront for water activities. .

Citing a row with the county government over redevelopment plans, TFC had warned investors against an offer for the facility, before it was handed over to KDC.

For the Imperial Hotel, another old establishment in Kisumu, its owners decided to go out of business last year to allow for a facelift.

The hotel, owned by Mayfair Holdings Limited, has invested 500 million shillings in the ongoing renovation to keep up with trends in the tourism industry.

When complete, the property will have additional bedrooms, additional conference space, a café, and private bars and restaurants on the sixth floor where guests can have breathtaking views of the city and lake while enjoying their meals. meals and drinks.

Chief Executive Michael Kamau told Nation they made the decision to rebuild after researching and studying trends in the tourism industry.

“We wondered why we weren’t attracting the younger ones. We also realized that most of the loyal customers who were with us were elderly and their purchasing power was strained, forcing us to focus on young people between the ages of 25 and 35, ”Mr. Kamau said.

The hotel has been in existence for 36 years. In 2016, management sought to demolish the apartment section to create 30 additional bedrooms. The hotel now has 100 beds.

“Due to changing times, competition and new developments, we need to improve our game to meet the needs of our customers,” Kamau said.

“We need a facility that resonates with the vibe and culture of Kisumu, while retaining the Victorian theme,” he said.

Generally, Kisumu is considered a business tourism destination.

As a result, investors are looking to use the latest technology and invest in interior design, among other things, to attract more customers.

Today, the new kids of the lakeside town district such as the Acacia Premier Hotel, Ciala Resort, Best Western Hotel, Grand Royal Swiss Hotel, Wigot Garden, Sovereign Hotel and Mirage Hotel have become the best hotels.

Lake Victoria Tourism Association president Robin Anyal says the inability to renovate and improve services could be the reason some of the older hotels are struggling to keep up with trends.

Mr Anyal says the new hotels have invested heavily in high-end services, quality finishes, modern technology, and conference, swimming and gym facilities.

Mr. Masolia Okinda, a hotel industry expert, says older hotels in Kisumu need to embrace new trends in the hotel industry.

“Older hotels need a facelift. The rooms are old and therefore need to improve their aesthetics,” he said.

He added that most officials are reluctant to improve services because they are complacent.

“Unfortunately, some staff are at ease, instead of working to provide the best customer service. They tend to work with the mindset of family rather than a team,” he said. -he declares.

He added that investors in the hospitality industry should keep the needs of guests in mind and study emerging trends.

“Initially, hotels bought food items in bulk and kept them in cold rooms. Today, many guests prefer freshly prepared meals over frozen foods, which is the case in most hotels,” a- he declared.

He proposed that hoteliers take refresher courses in management, food, beverage and service.

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