#FairmontHotels pull the plug on Nairobi’s oldest hotel


(Posted 28th May 2020)

French hospitality giant Accor, which bought out Fairmont Hotels in 2016 for some 2.7 billion US Dollars, has reportedly pulled the plug on at least two of their properties in Kenya, the Norfolk Hotel and the Mara Safari Club.

In a memo to staff of the hotel seen by ATCNews does one Mehdi Morad state:

This memo serves as follow up to consultative meetings with various stakeholders. Following the Corona press statement dated March 22, 2020 issued by the National Emergency Response Committee under the directive of the Ministry of Health and the Government of Kenya, every Kenyan has since been instructed to stay at home in order to contain the virus from spreading.
The COVID-19 Pandemic, has resulted in a global lockdown, with no movement of visitors into Kenya, which has led to the shutting down of most hotels in Kenya. Since this pandemic is an event which is outside the control of any one person or organization and has resulted in preventing our Hotels from carrying out their contractual obligations, we are compelled to close down the properties and halt all operations as per the directive from the Ministry of Health and the Government of Kenya, in order to allow and facilitate the precautionary measures recommended to contain the spread of the virus and for everyone to stay at home until further notice.
It is regrettable that our Hotels, Fairmont The Norfolk and Fairmont Mara Safari Cub have since ceased their operations as a spiral effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent flooding of Fairmont Mara Safari Club. These unprecedented natural causes have resulted in disruption of our business now and in the foreseeable future.
Due to the uncertainty of when and how the impact of the global Pandemic will result in the business picking up in the near future, we are left with no option but to close down the business indefinitely.
The management has taken into consideration various demands by the employees which at this time and given the current financial constraints, are out of reach for the company. It is therefore the decision of the management to terminate the Services of all its employees due to “frustration” by way of mutual separation and taking into account the loyalty and dedication the employees have put into the success of our company in the previous years:
Employees will be entitled to one month’s pay in lieu of notice You will be entitled to your pension as per the rules of the Scheme Employees will receive their termination letters with the terms stipulated above by end of day June 05, 2020. Should you have any concerns and queries in this regard, you are advised to contact the Talent & Culture office by the said date. Thanks for your continued support in this uncertain time’

The Norfolk with its history of 120 years as one of Kenya’s hospitality leaders, was initially built and managed by the Block family, to become part of Block Hotels at a later stage. Romanticized in many block buster films and frequented by Royalty, Heads of State and Government, Captains of Industry and the who is who of the entertainment industry and Hollywood at one stage, did the hotel change hands several times since the 1980’s, eventually coming under the Fairmont brand which was later taken over by France’s Accor Hotels.

Told an angry senior hospitality stakeholder ATCNews early evening: ‘Shame on them for abandoning Kenya in this hour of need and when we are all in the struggle together to eventually restart tourism to the country. Every single hotel company or hotel owner has since the outbreak of #COVID19 been under sustained financial pressure but only a few days ago did President Kenyatta announce a big bailout package for the tourism sector through a soft loan scheme. We in Kenya have always been proud of the history of the Norfolk, together with the Stanley the two oldest hotels in Nairobi.
To close down such an iconic hotel smacks of contempt for Kenya. It smacks of contempt if not insult to the Kenyan workers being accused of ‘frustrating management’ and the company will learn that lesson the hard way with the operations of their other Kenyan properties. They are now outcasts if they do not immediately reverse their decision and will be treated like outcasts and undesirables. It is a lesson we should learn to be most careful about selling such jewels of our industry to foreigners who have no allegiance to Kenya and only amass profits and send dividends and management fees to their home countries and when the going gets tough they dump us‘.

Fairmont retains the management of the Mount Kenya Safari Club which was sold to new owners some time ago, as Fairmont began an apparent process of divestiture, now culminating in the closure of their two remaining properties.

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