Kiamunyi Trading Centre, which is five kilometres from the Nakuru central business district (CBD) on Kabarak road, is one of the suburbs quickly experiencing a surge in business, thanks to its location.
Ten years ago, the place was sleepy and did not have many human activities, but with the growth of the town and the advent devolution, the area began to witness increased occupation due to a rise in population and soon the area was teeming with middle-class investments, ranging from high-end estates and luxury apartments.
It is in this fast-rising upmarket Nakuru suburb where a Sh220 million a hotel was started in 2014, and four years after construction, Grand Winston Hotel opened its doors to the public in 2018, spurring development in the area.
Hotel Manager Rosa Muriuki told the Business Daily the multimillion project sought to tap into the growing clientele in the hospitality sector through the rapidly growing meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions (MICE) subsector, which currently controls 70 per cent of the tourism business in Nakuru.
“This project was started in 2014 when its ground-breaking was done, and we opened the hotel in 2018, four years after its construction. The choice of Kiamunyi was because it was an upmarket area without a hotel of the stature of the area.
“That is why we thought of coming up with such a project here. We also wanted to make it part of Kiamunyi people so that when they have visitors during holidays, then they have a place to bring them,” she says.
The hotel, which received some of its construction funding from the Tourism Finance Corporation (TFC), offers conference facilities, bar and restaurant services.
“We have a total of about 65 rooms, three conference halls, two bars and a restaurant. The locality is also a plus for us because we are away from the town, the noise, traffic and the lack of parking space in town, and besides, we are easily accessible because we are right next to the highway,” says Ms Muriuki.
She says much of its project funding came from TFC although some other financiers like banks also came in handy to finance the project to its completion.
“The TFC was a great supporter, they funded the majority of the project, and a few other local banks also came in to finance, but the TFC was the big financier,” she said.
Ms Muriuki said the major clientele is the Nakuru county government as well as other neighbouring devolved units, national government, NGOs and the corporates.
“We have four conference halls, with the big one holding capacity for 200 guests, another one can hold 100, the other one for 80 guests and we have a smaller one that can hold 30 guests. Our menu is continental to cater for everyone. So we have both the local and international cuisine,” she said.
Ms Muriuki added that since the opening up for the facility in December last year, the business has been on and off but she expressed optimism of growth soon.
“When we opened in December last year, we started with 35 rooms, and that being a busy month, we remained fully-booked to the end of the year.
“Then in January, we struggled, so the business has been on and off, and I think it is also because we were are introducing ourselves to the market,” she says.
The manager says the tourism market has been shakily occasioned by the increasing competition for a slice of MICE market pie.
“The tourism market is not very steady and if you look at MICE, everyone is trying to do it, so you have to fight for that piece of cake. So it has been on and off, but so far, I can say we have put our feet in the market and hope that next year would be better than this,” Ms Muriuki added.
“Kenyans like to get out of Nairobi and in the area we are, there are people who visit with their families and parents don’t want to remain in their houses — they prefer coming here.
“That is what gave us a brisk business last December and we expect a replica of the same,” she says.
TFC Managing Director Jonah Orumoi told the Business Daily that the hotel is one of the many projects the State agency has supported in the tourism industry across the country as it seeks more investors in hospitality and create job opportunities for Kenyans.
“This corporation is a specialised development financial institution with the mandate of facilitating and providing affordable development funding and advisory services for long-term investment in Kenya’s tourism industry.
“We can give loans to people who intend to invest in tourism and Winston was one of the clients who came to the office, looked at their proposals and we assisted them,” he said.
He said the TFC has for the last three years been trying to bring up good and large establishments in every county with similar projects undertaken in Narok and other devolved units.
“One of our main requirement as a government entity is to take investments to different counties especially in tourism and as such also create jobs for the local youths and the people in those counties and also ensure we support small and medium-sized businesses in the tourism sector.
“We are happy that Winston is one of the projects that we funded, completed in time and it is doing well right now,” he said.
Apart from Nakuru and Narok counties, Mr Orumoi says the State agency has funded other investments in Marsabit and other counties.
“We give funding to a maximum of Sh100 million depending on the project. We have been able to support the expansion of Jilime Hotel in Marsabit and Tafaria Castle in Nyahururu.
“We have also funded other projects in Voi, Naro Moru. The Narok project called Zeb Hotel is about 80 per cent done, it has already started operating,” he said.