Serena signs long term lease after major new investments in Sweetwaters


(Posted 16th October 2013)

A pending visit to what can only be described as Kenya’s most complete wildlife and adventure experience, this being the Ol Pejeta Conservancy near Nanyuki in central Kenya, will give me the opportunity to not just see the impressive work carried out by Richard Vigne and his team to look after the largest Eastern Black rhino population in the country, as well as the arguably last four Northern White rhinos in the wild anywhere in the world, but also allow to see the new look Sweetwaters Serena Safari Camp.

For long Serena had managed the property on behalf of the owners Ol Pejeta but information has come to light that the conservancy has now signed a long term 30 year lease for the land and the camp with Serena Hotels, giving Kenya’s leading hotel, resort and lodge company complete control over the property.

Serena over the past year spent over 2.5 million US Dollars to upgrade and enlarge the camp and the newly launched Morani Wing is offering guests suites under canvas in the middle of the conservancy.

The Ol Pejeta Conservancy had in a generous move, incidentally mirrored by Serena Hotels, deferred the introduction of the full impact of the new VAT charges the Kenyan government has slapped on the sector – a move severely critizised by the entire tourism industry as counterproductive and one of the worst misjudgments ever made by any government vis a vis taxation of the sector – but will from November onwards pass on the full effect of the 16 percent cost rise to visitors. The conservancy in fact lowered entrance fees for the visitors to make good of the tax element, paying the price for the follies of government and parliament which passed the VAT law in total disregard of the challenges the sector is facing this year.

The downturn in arrival is in the double digit figures for the first six months and more recent events are likely to accelerate this trend, rather than reverse it as has for a while been hoped. Notably though has Serena still announced an upswing in pretax profits by about a fifth compared to the same period of last year, but has also given a clear indication of the difficult times ahead with Serena’s CEO Mahmoud Janmohamed being quoted to have said that they are battling with many challenges ahead.

It is understood though from sources close to Serena that investment decisions taken to commence work at the Nairobi Serena and other properties of the group in Kenya will go ahead regardless of the present circumstances, a vote of confidence in Kenya’s future no doubt, but a future which will be better for the tourism industry if government will listen and adopt the sector’s concerns and act on them.

Watch this space for live reports from Ol Pejeta early next week, when visiting the rhino conservation project, see the cattle ranch coexist with wildlife, observe the work of the rangers, learn about the use of airborne surveillance, the rapid response unit, walk across the wilderness with local guides and file my experience of the available accommodation options Ol Pejeta now offers, catering for travellers on shoe string and open ended budgets. Do not miss!

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