Despite Kenya’s hospitality industry experiencing downturn in tourism due to unfortunate terror attacks and the global economy crises, business hotels have not been heavily affected mainly because Kenya has continued to receive a lot of attention from the business community globally especially with the recent of high profile guests like Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu; US president Barrack Obama and Pope Benedict visiting our country.
Recent discoveries in Oil and Gas, massive development of infrastructure such as Standard Gauge railway, Construction of northern and southern bypasses this among other various ongoing projects keep Kenya especially Nairobi busy.
Attractively, being the gateway to East Africa, Kenya has seen several multinational companies who have opened up their offices in Nairobi with an aim of targeting the Kenyan Sub-Saharan market from within. These companies attract guests and consultants who require accommodation, food and beverage.
Mr. Patrick Marekia, the managing director of Panari Hotel and also a famous veteran hotelier with over four decades to his credit in the industry; having worked in different hotels and companies running unique roles both in the country and abroad has seen the industry being born, grow and also develop to the current state as well as experience the first hand of positives and challenges faced in the hospitality sector.
Mr. Marekia is a successful businessman, a family man, God fearing, kind and also a mentor to many successful hoteliers. Mr.Marekia has also been involved in many successful assignments one being the drafting of hotels and tourisms act which saw the sector grow immensely.
Today, he is at the helm of Panari Hotel group, which offers five star, luxurious and comfortable space to relax, unwind and rejuvenate in an ideal location that is conveniently 10 minutes away from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport Nairobi. The hotel exudes tranquility in exquisite surrounding and creates a warm feeling of unpretentious luxury.
It is located in the southern Nairobi and provides tourists embarking on an African adventure safari and corporate travelers with comfortable accommodations that are conveniently close to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Besides being ten minutes’ drive from the airport, this transit hotel is conveniently sited within the view of Nairobi National Park. Lucky guests may catch sight of distant giraffes, zebras and other majestic wildlife from the higher floors.
The Panari offers 136 comfortably furnished rooms, as well as various facilities. In addition to the hotel’s Standard Rooms, guests can upgrade to Superior Rooms, Deluxe Suites and the Royal Jade Suite. The base amenities provided in the hotel’s air conditioned Standard Rooms include a flat-screen television, working desk, Wi-Fi internet, mini bar, safety box, hairdryer, bathrobe and slippers, appliances for making tea and coffee.
In-between seeing the sights of Nairobi while on an urban day excursion in Kenya, guests can make use of Panari’s Dolphin Spa. This combo spa-fitness center consists of a modern gym, inside pool, sauna and Jacuzzi. Tired and stiff travelers may obtain unassuming massage treatments here.
Who are your target clients?
Nairobi being a regional economic hub for the East Africa region, it receives many business travelers as well as numerous international conference are held here in Nairobi, a role that has seen the capital play host to many both local and international visitors.
Panari hotel attracts long and short staying business travelers, conference delegates, individual travelers and leisure travelers. I believe as Kenyan economy maintains positive growth trends, many multinationals and global companies are opening their Africa regional headquarters in Nairobi thus increasing expatriates and consultants travel. We target these customers by offering the unique products and luxury at affordable and friendly cost.
How do you muddle through the competition?
At least 90 per cent of our customer’s feedback has been positive citing our quality and fast customer services. Yes, competition is thickening day by day. However, our brand name, uniqueness of our products and a wide base of our loyal clients sharpens our competitiveness putting us a head of competition. Besides the relaxed environment coupled by a team of professionals staff makes our customers always want to come back.
You cannot ignore security and ample parking in the hotel industry as the key factors. How is the situation at Panari Hotel?
We do provide 24 hours ample and secure parking at no extra cost for each customer that comes to our hotel. About the security, the hotel features a perimeter wall fence with an electric wire, CCTV cameras with night vision capability, 24 hours uniformed and non-Uniformed guards, standby response team, strategically located panic buttons, a gate with reinforcement barrier for access control and a 24 hours manned reception. Just like any other serious hotel business, we take security seriously.
Apart from the said services and products you offer to your customers, what other added value should customers expect from the Hotel?
Panari Hotel gives clients a relaxed and flexible environment. The hotel is designated to accommodate unique guest’s requests mostly at no extra charges or at a very small fee depending on the request. This makes our guests enjoy their stay without experiencing hotel boredom. Adding few, free WIFI, luxury of steam; gym among others compliments our hospitality.
In the coming future, where do you see Panari?
We have plans to extend to other countries like Uganda. The East Africa community integration has open up enormous opportunities as people seek for decent and affordable hotel facilities. We are determined to provide luxury and comfort to our loyal and new customers at affordable rate while maintaining high quality of our products, services and hospitality.
How do you gauge the success of a Hotel?
When a business is able to sustain and meet its customers demand, needs and expectation at the same time ensuring high quality services and products at affordable cost: then I believe customers will make you favourite. It is all about passion, do your research, determination and hard work.
This hotel has been popular with repeater guests, who have kept on returning to the hotel each time they land in Kenya. One of these has returned 122 times, while another has been back 68 times. A good number has returned over 50 times while many more have been back for varying number of times. This is a total proof of satisfactions from our customers.
What are some of the necessary skills and abilities for someone who plans to venture into this field need to succeed?
Don’t wait for tomorrow, Kenya is growing rapidly. They is no specific strategy to succeed in any business. Most people think money is everything, no; plan yourself as you move upwards. Money and profits will come later.
To increase its presence and customer’s base, Mr. Marekia said that the group will open more hotels across the country, despite dwindling tourism fortunes. “Soon we will be rolling out facilities across the country, with the first entry being in Nyahururu, where we are putting up a 100 room resort.”
Panari Hotel has diversified its business by opening a multi-billion serviced apartment in Westlands area as demand for family holiday destinations max out. He stated that continued support from these has given them a great sense of satisfaction; a positive indicator of the hotel’s product quality and service delivery.
He further acknowledged Panari’s architectural masterpiece design which reflects contemporary architecture, comprising of three floors of square block upon which eleven floor parallelogram bedroom block stands.
The hotel also prides itself with an ice skating rink. In addition to the Dolphin Spa, the Panari is home to East Africa’s first ice-skating rink. The ice rink offers recreational skating for mainly local families (and for corporate fun days), as well as ice hockey and skating lessons.
“The rink is popular with several schools having become members of skating fraternity. One ice hockey team consisting of embassy staff from one of North American countries regularly plays at the rink,” he cited.
Apart from sporting, individuals skate for self exercise, figure skating or ballet on ice. The hotel recently started the Panari Ice Hockey league, a tournament where participating schools compete and the winner is crowned the champion of the Panari Ice Hockey tournament.
The tournament happens during April, August and December. Panari boss said its proximity to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport makes it ideal starting and final port call for travelers transiting through Nairobi.
He said the facility has taken up Meetings Incentives Conference and Exhibition concept to grow business. “We have one of the largest meeting, seminar and exhibition capacity in Kenya. The eight meeting rooms have a collective capacity of 1,500 persons.”