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KICC: Reclaiming the jewel

NAIROBI, September 4 – It is Kenya’s landmark; an international and local tourist attraction positioned prominently at the heart of the Capital City, Nairobi.

Neighbouring the Nairobi Law Courts, City Hall, the Treasury building, and the Foreign Affairs Ministry headquarters, the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) is the second tallest building in Kenya.

The landmark cylindrical tower (with a helipad at the revolving rooftop) was the tallest in Kenya until the Times Tower was constructed. KICC’s cone-shaped conference centre resembles a traditional African hut.

Outside KICC, a local tourist tells Capital News: “You cannot say you visited Nairobi if you have not posed for a photo at the Jomo Kenyatta monument. Going back home, the only prove that you had visited Nairobi is a photo of KICC.”

Capital News spoke to Philip Kisia the Managing Director of the KICC Corporation, whose brief upon appointment was to transform the centre into a moneymaking conference facility.

He explains the difficult journey of turning the centre from its former image as a KANU property and pre-wedding venue to its present state as the preferred conference spot.
“Before the Kibaki administration in 2003 this complex used to be run by the then ruling party KANU, the face was of a rotten place, dirty, no customer orientation, no lifts and it lacked proper management. Actually there was nothing like management, the place was not running like a business,” he recounts.

The government successfully reclaimed the complex in 2003 and was run as a department of the Tourism Ministry until it became a State Corporation in 2004.

The reforms

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Kisia says his first task as Managing Director was to change the image of the complex by setting out short and long-term measures.

“We had to make a very bold statement, that KICC was constructed to be a venue for conferences. We had to strongly state that no form of business that did not fall within the definition of conferencing was allowed,” he says.

It was a difficult process.

“Funeral meetings, weddings, church crusades, fundraisers; those are businesses but really they do not fall within the definition of KICC’s international business agenda. We had to step on many toes,” says Kisia,

Another step was to enhance security. First, they barred people from crossing through the facility between Harambee Avenue and City Hall Way.

“This posed a threat to security and led to lack of control which left the centre dirty and unattended to,” he explains, adding that KICC is now under 24-hour Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) surveillance.

To improve its services, proper restructuring and staffing were done to supplement customer care services, promote professionalism and portray the international image that was needed to deliver world class services.

The seventh parastatal to be ISO-certified in 2000, then embarked on marketing itself for local and international meetings marking the beginning of increasing its revenue.

Kisia says currently KICC generates Sh400 million annually.
The long-term plans include revamping the revolving restaurant at the rooftop of the tower, construction of an underground convention centre and establishment of a mini park around Kenyatta’s monument.

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