A NEW KID ON THE BLOCK THE BOMA HOTEL NAIROBI
The names Red Cross and hotels are not always considered compatible in the same sentence but in Kenya, the Red Cross Society is about to change that with a bang, when the new Boma Hotel will open its doors officially in a short while from now.
On arrival, an attired doorman awaits guests, rushing to open car doors, helping one out of the vehicle and taking care of the baggage, briefcases or backpacks included, and a guest relations staff member will be at hand to assist with the check in where a scented cooled towel, I am told during the cold season that may well be a hot towel, is offered alongside some chilled Mango juice. A few steps from the reception is the coffee lounge and here the Wow effect comes into play, seeing the tall atrium and the blue glass canopy high above. Stylish comes to mind and certainly not something found in great supply yet in Nairobi, so this feature will set the Boma aside for a while to come for sure. A friend of mine described her feel on first inspection as masculine to which, true as that may be, I just had to add that if so it was certainly surrounded by very female curves.
The hotel is currently undergoing trial runs, not even formally pronounced as soft opening stage as yet, and when open the new 5 star hotel in Nairobis Bellevue Estate / South C area will undoubtedly transform the wider area and act as a catalyst for what is very likely to be a spate of new buildings going up. Kenyas Ministry of Energy is already constructing their new headquarters nearby, kicking off a likely transformation of the formerly purely residential area in to a mixed zone of business, government, hospitality and residential buildings, a long stone throw away from the boundaries of the Nairobi National Park and within touching distance of the upcoming Southern Bypass which will in the future route transit traffic around Nairobi to decongest the city centre. A top class hotel, so near to such crucial infrastructure, is bound to benefit from it.
The Boma Hotel, next door to the Kenyan headquarters of the Red Cross Society, and next to its sister property The Boma Inn Nairobi, previously known as The Red Court Hotel, will form the backbone of a new group of hotels, inns and very likely resorts in key towns and cities across Kenya. Wherever the Red Cross from here on sees opportunities to turn investments in the hospitality sector into medium and long term net contributors towards the societys annual budget for emergency responses, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, Kenyans can expect to see either a Boma Hotel or a Boma Inn go up the former in the 5 star category and the latter in the 3 star category, according to Kenyan licensing standards. The investments are seen as a source of long term sustainable income, also expressing faith and confidence in the medium and long term economic prospects of Kenya, which remains the economic powerhouse in the East African Community. Profits from the Boma Hotels operations, according to the groups Managing Director Mugo Maringa, will be going entirely towards the Red Cross, once operating expenses and loan repayments have been met.
The new Boma Hotel will feature 148 suites and rooms, including a top floor presidential suite with view over Wilson Airport and the Ngong Hills in the distance, and convinces through functionality, clear lines, pleasant colour schemes and the availability of all facilities a business traveler or in fact even tourist comes to expect today from a 5 star hotel. The pillows are soft, though harder ones are available on request, the mattresses firm and the duvets light and yet warm to keep the at times chilly night temperatures out of ones bones. The superior room category is large enough to impress while the de luxe rooms are spacious even in my own vocabulary, though the business and executive suites truly offer what makes the hotel special, that extra space with which a feeling of freedom comes. A working desk with a panel on the side for a laptop connection, linked to the flat screen TV, audio and video adapters, HDMI and USB ports as well as a printer and wired internet port makes in room working as simple as on ones own in the office. Easy chairs and an arm chair provide enough comfortable sitting, wardrobe space is sufficient and the bathrooms well appointed, all with shower and tub and some in fact with Jacuzzi baths.
The hotel has a fully fledged Spa named Zoezi Kiswahili for Exercise, a gym and a dedicated aerobics studio, a pool for those daring to face the cool temperatures and on the culinary side two main restaurants, two bars, a coffee lounge under the massive trademark blue atrium roof and a 6th floor executive club lounge where for eligible guests snacks and non alcoholic drinks are available across the day, and where a daily happy hour takes care of the thirst for a beer, a glass of wine or some choice spirits.
The food, though the kitchen brigade is of course still in its early days of blending together, was already excellent and eating my way through the menu over a combined stay of 5 nights, showed quality in preparation and presentation, as well as reasonable pricing, again something every visitor, for business or leisure, will appreciate. Service was on all occasions swift, as was the room service, which at first try took a mere 21 minutes only to be beaten to the door second time round with just 18 minutes from putting the phone down to having the trolley wheeled into my suite.
As everywhere else, attention to detail and every staff members mind set on service with a smile does make all the difference, and will stand the Boma Hotel well when fully up and running.
A business centre on the ground floor too is available to take care of printing needs, binding and all else a busy executive may require last moment to turn a presentation in one of the hotels meeting rooms into a 100 percent success. Here it is worth mentioning that within the Boma Hotel two executive meetings rooms are available while otherwise the main conference centre with multiple size options on rooms is located at the adjoining Boma Inn Nairobi, connected with a walkway and taking not more than a minute to reach.
Notably, at the moment 6 sedan vehicles are available at a very reasonable cost for guests, with an airport transfer costing a mere 15 US Dollars or a trip to Wilson Airport just 1.100 Kenya Shillings, and a trip across town to say Westlands or beyond just requiring a little extra. It is such thoughtful and competitively priced services, provided without the rip off seen at some other places, which will gain the hotel friends and repeat business on the fast track, because such are key issues business travelers care about, but even more the locals who are expected to make the Boma Hotel their place in no time.
Located half way between Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airport, the new Boma Hotel seems destined to pick up quite a bit of traffic from safari operators, which can spare their arriving clients the agony of having to stop and go and stop and go across the endless traffic jams of Nairobi on arrival, and departure for that matter, and when flying into the parks Wilson Airport is just 20 minutes away as the notorious Nyayo Stadium roundabouts, now jammed almost 24/7, are given a wide berth.
According once again to the groups Managing Director Mugo Maringa, the Red Cross already is in the process to complete a Boma Inn in Eldoret, due for opening later this year, while the current Red Court Hotel in Nyeri will undergo a major transformation to add extra accommodation to the restaurant and meeting facilities already in place in this central Kenyan town. We are looking to eventually cover key county headquarter towns across Kenya with Boma Inns and for bigger cities like Kisumu or Mombasa the option for a Boma Hotel are being evaluated right now. If we are to go to a place like Malindi for instance, we would look at putting up a Boma Resort to complete the brand differentiation, yet with full recognition of Boma as the overall brand line. All profits from the hotel operations will be dedicated to the Red Cross humanitarian and emergency services programmes, so every guest staying with us will contribute towards the Kenya Red Cross Societys continued operations.
Commendable indeed and whoever came up with the initial idea to have the Red Cross invest in Kenyas hotel industry, was surely foresighted enough to bring the two together for, as one so often hears, each others mutual benefit. The formal opening, for which President Mwai Kibaki, who is also the Patron of the Kenya Red Cross Society is expected to be guest of honour, will take place once all arrangements have been put into place and then it will be green light all the way, to help finance doing good by being very very good in what they do. Watch this space.