Economy

Nairobi hotels relish windfall from presidential suites scramble during climate summit


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A presidential suite dining. PHOTO | COURTESY

The scramble for luxurious presidential and executive suites in Nairobi to accommodate high-profile dignitaries attending the just-ended Africa Climate Summit has left high-end hotels in the city relishing a windfall. 

The three-day Africa Climate Summit held in Nairobi attracted over 20 heads of state, their representatives and other prominent officials including the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, US Special Climate Envoy John Kerry; Chief Climate Officer USAID Gillian Caldwell; State Secretary and Special Envoy for New Climate Action Germany Jeniffer Morgan.

Over 20,000 delegates also attended the inaugural climate event and booked rooms in different city hotels.

A hotelier who spoke to the Business Daily said “September has started on a high note as we found ourselves maxed out to capacity” as some charged between Sh1.03 million and Sh2.19 million per night, per person.

As State guests, the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs had a say on which hotel delegates were assigned to. Sankara, a five-star hotel, had its presidential and two executive suites booked.

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The presidential suite, which goes for about $10,000 (Sh1.46 million) per night, is a full-sized apartment.

Mohammed Hersi, a hotelier with over 20 years of experience, said that there are about 12 presidential suites in the Nairobi central business district and its environs, which may not be enough for dignitaries if Kenya hosts another major global event such as the annual climate negotiations organised by the United Nations Convention of Parties (COP).

“A presidential suite can easily be converted to about six or seven rooms. From a business angle, you must ask how often you host presidents or dignitaries. Only five-star hotels can have presidential suites. The others have executive suites which can host dignitaries depending on their calibre,” he said.

Joyce Wangui, the Sankara’s director of sales and marketing, said the demand for luxury suites was high, especially from the dignitaries who included heads of state and ministers.

“Bookings were made weeks ago, in good time. We all knew this was going to be a busy week. All our 168 rooms were taken,” she said.

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Radisson Blu Upperhill was also a full house. Maryanne Njeri, the hotel’s marketing manager, said apart from all the 271 rooms being booked, the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs made special requests before the arrival of the African Climate Summit guests which included reserving the presidential suite going for $15,000 (Sh2.19 million) per night.

“The ministry booked most of the executive suites since they were allocating the rooms to the dignitaries. They also handled the special transport requests as well. On our end, we had to take our security protocols up a notch. Government personnel came, searched the hotel, and then provided heavier security detail for the hotel,” she said.

Villa Rosa Kempinski is reputed of having hosted prominent leaders such as former US President Barack Obama and current US First Lady Jill Biden who visited Nairobi during her Africa tour in February this year. This is especially because it has one of the biggest presidential suites in the city.

Starting from about $15,000 (Sh2.19 million) per night in off-peak seasons, the presidential suite has four bedrooms fitted with king beds, a full kitchen, a lounge area, a private bar, and a private terrace fitted with a plunge pool and a jacuzzi. The Villa Rosa Kempinski presidential suite sits on 9,149 square feet of space.

Before its closure, InterContinental had a relatively big presidential suite in the city with 2,340 square feet. This room hosted hundreds of heads of state, dignitaries and corporate captains, and added to additional bed space in the city.

For the climate summit delegates who preferred proximity to the KICC, the venue of the event, they opted for the Sarova Stanley and Sarova Panafric, which are within walking distance of the centre.

However, hosting the high-profile guests came with new demands, from the delegates asking for the room set-ups to be changed to some bringing their own personal chefs to prepare their meals, even with their ingredients.

Some groups booked a whole floor in a hotel to accommodate their entourage and security detail who must be close by at all times.

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Caroline Wandetto, the Sarova Hotels and Resorts group marketing manager, said that the two hotels have 388 rooms that were all booked.

“Sarova Stanley is the oldest hotel in Nairobi so we have extensive experience accommodating high-end guests. We were not only at full capacity in accommodation but so were our conference rooms and restaurants,” she said.

Randy Ngala, the Mövenpick Hotel and Residences Nairobi, said they too had full bookings for all their 275 rooms and suites.

The hotel also recorded a significant increase in sales of food and beverages in Movenpick and the three-star hotel Ibis Styles, which are both managed by a French hotel group, Accor.

“Our presidential suite is still under construction but the hotel was full. Basically, Nairobi was full to the point that I even understand serviced apartments were also fully booked out,” he said.

However, while other hotels rushed to brand their suites as ‘presidential’, not all fit the stipulated standards.

Mr Mohammed Hersi said that there are certain aspects of a room that make it a presidential suite.

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“A presidential suite should have its own floor. If not, it should have a private entrance and exit. You should not have the same entrance serving as an exit. Some of the modern presidential suites would be designed as duplexes so that you can enter from one floor and exit on the next floor, in case of any emergency. Some have bulletproof windows,” he said.

“It has to have a minimum of two bedrooms that are connected so that the bodyguard can sleep in the next room to protect the head of state or dignitary. There should be a living room, separated from the bedroom to have meetings with other dignitaries and have interviews. It should at least have a kitchenette when the food is not really prepared but presented for serving. The bathroom should have a shower and a bathtub to soak after a long day.”

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