Celebrating ‘Channi’ Vohra’s life while mourning his passing …


(Posted 15th October 2013)

As much as Kenya’ tourism fraternity is looking forward to the events unfolding this week, the World Travel Awards and the Magical Kenya Travel Expo, there will also be a deep sense of loss among many of my friends here in Nairobi as the news made the rounds yesterday that G.S. ‘Channi’ Vohra, the Chairman of Sarova Hotels, had passed on over the weekend.

After arriving in Nairobi yesterday at the crack of dawn, the first trip out of my hotel, incidentally the very one with which G.S. launched his career in the big league of the hospitality business back in the mid 70’s, was therefore to pay my respect to the family and sign the condolence book at the hotel group’s head office at the Panafric Hotel. I went to mourn the passing of a friend and recalled those moments over the decades of shared joy, shared ambitions for Kenya’s tourism industry, shared tribulations when Sarova had in the early 90’s moved into Uganda but also shared experiences and shared friendship. Channi as his friends called him, and I, in part for the distance when I moved to Uganda in the early 1992, did not see too much of each others’ since then, but until that move our ways crossed oftentimes, and whenever we met, I could feel the warmth of his friendship and how genuine he was from the inside, beyond the characteristics of being a businessman par excellence. He, with his family and partners, like John Kariuki who for long served as the group’s executive director, built a hotel group which now ranks among the finest in Kenya, and should they scoop an award, as regularly done before, at the World Travel Award Ceremony this week, I hope it will be dedicated to his life, his work and his vision, and that the room will stand in a minute of silence to acknowledge the icon Kenya’s tourism industry has lost.

To his family and other friends I express my deepest condolences and stand with them in mourning a great man, one I have been privileged to know and share experiences with as our career paths and other interests like conservation periodically brought us on parallel tangents before moving along different paths but in the same direction. I hope, wherever his spirit now is, he will enjoy the view from high above, from a terrace of a luxurious suite befitting to his legacy as one of Kenya’s great hoteliers, holding watch over the empire he created down here on earth. Rest in peace my friend, rest in peace.

Meanwhile has the Vohra family released the following statement:

It is with deep regret that we announce the passing of Mr.G.S. Vohra, Chairman of Sarova Hotels. Mr. Vohra, aged 78, passed away in London on October 12, 2013. He was one of the founders of Sarova Hotels in Kenya, in 1974.

He was one of the pioneers of the tourism industry in Kenya. A strong driving force in the industry, he was highly respected and instrumental in putting Kenya on the global tourism map.

An iconic figure, he had several passions and numerous accomplishments to his credit. A well known philanthropist, he was involved in several charitable causes. He was the patron of the Spinal Injuries Hospital in Nairobi where he contributed not only financial resources but more importantly, personal time and commitment to improving the lives of those affected.

A champion of the environment, Mr. Vohra was extremely passionate about nature and the protection of our wildlife. He was especially saddened by the plight of the African elephant due to poaching and was personally involved in the effort led by Jim Nyamu. He was also instrumental in the Nairobi Greenline Project at Nairobi National Park, in memory of his son, the Late Sandy Vohra.

A deeply spiritual man, ‘Channi’, as he was known to friends and family, had a strong faith in the Divine and allowing nature to take its course. He touched many people’s lives and always left a memorable impact on everyone he met with.

He shall be fondly remembered and profoundly missed.

Details of the funeral service will be announced in due course’.

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