Global hotel chain Radisson Blu officially opened the doors to its first East African establishment last month. This has set into motion the hotel’s advance across the region.
The hotel is managed by the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, which already has 31 hotels across the continent, and is planning on doubling this number. At least three of these are set to be operational in Kenya by next year.
According to Jens Brandin, Radisson Blu’s general manager for Kenya, the country’s relatively developed hospitality sector and rapidly growing consumer class provides great opportunities for growth.
“Kenya has a big safari attraction and leisure is a big market in tourism, but our main offerings are to business travellers. The growing number of multinationals in the country and an expanding consumer base make this the right time and place for us to be,” he told Business Beat.
Kenya is ranked the fifth-most competitive tourism and travel market in sub-Saharan Africa, but it lags far behind regional leaders South Africa, Mauritius and Seychelles.
According to a recent report from the World Economic Forum, Kenya ranks 78th in the global tourism market out of 141 countries, with its strengths being natural resources (11th globally), brand visibility online (10th globally), and it leads Africa in the number of known species of mammals, birds and amphibians.
The country is also home to one of the largest diplomatic communities in Africa.
However, growth has been slow, and according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), Kenya’s bed capacity in 2010 stood at 17,161. By 2014, this number had only grown marginally to 19,877.
Of this capacity, 20 per cent is in Nairobi, 46 per cent at the beach and hinterland areas of the Coast, 11 per cent in Central Kenya, and the rest distributed almost equally in the Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza.
However, Kenya has one of the highest ticket taxes, a factor that dampens prospective visitors’ interest, giving Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda the upper hand.
But Mr Brandin says the business travel segment of the industry has not been fully exploited and could reap big returns for the economy.