Nairobi Westlands, Upper Hill, Airport Zone and now Hurlingham – hotel growth areas


(Posted 13th June 2017)

In the hotel industry there is the saying about Location Location Location and that has in fact been true since inns and taverns with rooms above them have taken in travelers during days when the fastest means to move from point A to point B overland was by horse, while most of those on the road used their own feet.
It was no doubt with location in mind that the owners of what is since early April Nairobi’s first Marriott Group hotel, a Four Points by Sheraton, decided to build a property there in the earlier part of this decade. After its launch in late 2012, being the only branded property in the wider neighbourhood of Hurlingham, did their phenomenal success vis a vis occupancy prove them right.
Having decided to then build a second hotel in the fast rising airport zone of Nairobi and sign a deal with at the time Starwood to come under Four Points by Sheraton management, was it only a matter of time before the former Best Western Premier in Hurlingham also changed stables, allowing the owners to deal with one rather than two brands.

I stayed at the hotel, under its former brand, almost exactly two years ago and was impressed by the fact that a brand outside the top tier, i.e. the city’s five star hotels, could be that complete vis a vis services, food quality and not the least its room standards. The 96 rooms suddenly offered visitors the option to have, well almost 5 star standards but at clearly 4 star tariffs and the combination clearly paid off.

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The distance to the CBD, where in fact less and less of key businesses are located – many moved over the past decade or two to Westlands, to Nairobi’s Upper Hill or in this case to Hurlingham – is therefore also of lesser importance and the arrival of UBER and Little Cabs in Kenya has made commutes much more reasonably priced, besides offering often better quality vehicles than regular cabs.

Now how therefore does the ‘new‘ Four Points by Sheraton compare to what I experienced and wrote about then?

The hotel underwent changes for several months, starting late last year, to accomplish the transformation to the new brand by the launch in early April. It is clear that they owners used that period to not only meet the exacting standards of this Marriott Group brand but went beyond the call of mere duty.

An additional F&B outlet, the Lobby Cafe, opened where previously a small boutique was located. Guests can now, in an informal atmosphere, enjoy snacks and an excellent selection of cakes and pastries throughout the day plus a wide selection of coffees not just from Kenya but from other producer countries in East Africa like Uganda and Tanzania.

Pablo’s, the hotel’s main restaurant, which extends from indoors to the outdoor terrace, proved to be as popular as ever including diners coming in from outside the hotel and then there is of course the roof top terrace where, combined with the swimming pool, lunch and dinner is served, as are drinks, though a separate ‘Sports Bar‘ screening popular local sporting events, invites to have drinks on the rooftop but indoors.
The view across the city, especially towards the CBD, is stunning on a blue skied day and is part of the reasons why tables on the roof top are in much demand. This architectural feature has since been incorporated by other hotels too, i.e. a rooftop pool combined with an F&B outlet in part of course because land on which conventional pools can be constructed, has become prohibitively expensive in Nairobi.

(The Happy Hour at the Four Points lasts 4 hours to be precise and served is an inhouse brand of draft beer called ‘Four Pils‘, brewed by the Brew Bistro / Big Five Breweries to the specifications of the hotel)

Executive Chef Anish Nair, with a wealth of experience on other continents under his belt, certainly makes sure that all taste buds are tickled the right way and his guests leave a happy lot. Breakfast is served at Pablo’s as is lunch and dinner but as mentioned before, the rooftop offers an alternative for those who prefer the lofty outdoors while enjoying a tender fillet steak or a mixed grill. The waiting staff goes the extra mile and is happy to even get orders from Pablo’s and serve it on the roof terrace, a sign that service makes or breaks a hotel, and in this case clearly makes it.
Gas stoves are lit on cooler nights to keep guests warm while enjoying the light studded horizon which is Kenya’s capital city.
On to the rooms where the beds, mattresses and linen were all changed to meet Four Point criteria. High speed broadband internet makes work life easy and the wide desk accommodates not just a laptop but also peripherals like chargers with ease – and enough sockets to avoid using others elsewhere in the room meant for the fridge or for lamps.
Most impressive though was the quality of the bathrobes, two were available in the room, which was fluffy and wide with full length arms, not always found like that in other and supposedly higher ranked hotels.
Notably does the Four Points put sustainability in front of their corporate philosophy and subsequently they removed from the bathrooms the small containers of shampoo and shower gel and replaced it with this:

Participants in the Third East African regional conference on Green Tourism, which starts tomorrow and is organized by STTA, short for the Sustainable Travel and Tourism Agenda, will be pleased to hear that both lobbying by STTA and common sense among hoteliers has began to make an impact.

My flight arrived in Nairobi almost half an hour early and I was therefore at the hotel before five in the morning but my room was ready, check in was swift and both night receptionist and a cleaner who was sweeping the floor in the Lobby Cafe were prompt to offer their assistance to bring my luggage to my room. Again, going beyond the call of duty was noted and appreciated and by the look of it over the past two days do all staff make a habit of being at service, and not only in their areas of work but across the hotel.

I witnessed a brand transformation from what once was an impressive Best Western Premier into a Four Point by Sheraton which no doubt in my mind will be even more successful, given location, service, food and room standards .
A gym on the 7th floor, just a few steps from the heated swimming pool is one such value added extra which will not only bring the Sheraton faithful or the Marriott Group faithful to this hotel but win them many more customers as the new brand settles in.
Mission accomplished comes to mind while my eyes are now set on the final stage of construction and finishing of the upcoming Four Points by Sheraton at the airport ahead of the anticipated opening in September this year.
Watch this space for regular and breaking news from the hospitality sector in East Africa.