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New hotel opens in Kenyan capital

NAIROBI, Kenya Mar 2 – The Crowne Plaza hotel has finally opened its operations in Kenya after several months of delay.

The Maple Star Hotels Group will run the hotel in Nairobi’s Upper Hill area.

The Crowne Plaza becomes the second five star hotel under the IHG stable after the Intercontinental Hotel and forms part of the group’s expansion plan in the region.

Speaking during the opening on Tuesday, Maple Star Hotels Managing Director Mike Jameson said the new five-star establishment was looking to tap into the growing business traveler market.

“We see the major part of our business being occupancy driven given the number of people who are coming into town on business,” Mr Jameson said.

The 162-room business hotel will rely on the increased business activity in the area given the number of international companies and embassies in the Upper Hill region.

Mr Jameson exuded confidence the hotel would be able to achieve 70 percent operating capacity given Nairobi’s emergence as the regions hub for leisure, conference and business tourism.

“We are not here to fight with anyone, we know that there will be a natural move of specific markets to us because of our location and because of the standards of operation we are going to deliver,” he said.

The entry of the Crowne Plaza is timely given the resurgence of the tourism industry, which had taken a major dip following twin effects of the post election violence and the global economic crisis.

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Data from the Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) shows that international tourist arrivals for 2009 stood at 952,841 up from 2008 levels of 729,000.

This rise in arrivals also saw tourism earnings go up 18 percent to Sh62.4 billion up from Sh52 billion realised in 2008.

2007 remains Kenya’s tourism benchmark year accounting for Sh65.4 billion with one million tourists gracing its shores.

The data also shows most tourists entry point is Nairobi, something Mr Jameson is eager to capitalise on.

Also speaking during the opening, Maple Star Hotels Chairman Nazir Akbarali revealed they were weighing their options on setting up a second hotel in the country.

“We are planning to put a up a three star hotel in Nairobi given the demand of such products in the market,” he said adding they were looking for an ideal location to set up the hotel.

While the company primarily focuses on city hotels, Mr Akbarali said there was potential in setting up a lodge in one of the country’s game parks.

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