What Obama’s visit to Kenya means for accommodation hosts in Nairobi

Posted: April 1, 2015 in Opinion
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sleepout obama

The White House announced on Monday that US President Barrack Obama will be visiting Kenya during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) to be held in July 2015.

“His trip will build on the success of the August 2014 US-Africa Leaders’ Summit and continue our efforts to work with countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya, to accelerate economic growth,” read the statement in part.

As entrepreneurs and business leaders look forward to the event, hoteliers and tourism industry players in Kenya are concerned over the lack of capacity to host the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi.

The announcement, which came barely two days after Britain announced further travel warnings to Kenya, is seen by analysts as a tacit “endorsement” of Kenya as a tourist destination which could in turn begin to resuscitate a now troubled tourism industry.

The greatest challenge however may lie in bed capacity in Kenya’s capital with questions arising on Nairobi’s ability to accommodate the tens of thousands of guests from Africa and the world streaming in for the event.

Nairobi had a bed capacity of approximately 10,000 according to data released in 2012 and from the scale of the July GES event and the interest that comes with a US presidential visit to Kenya, this number could prove insufficient to accommodate both domestic and international guests who will be streaming into Nairobi during that period.

Accommodation marketplace SleepOut.com has already started discussions with private apartment owners throughout the city to scale up existing accommodation inventory in order to handle the sharp increase in demand.

“We are in discussions with guest house and apartment owners throughout Nairobi to find ways of increasing accommodation capacity in the city ahead of Obama’s visit as the Global Entrepreneurship Summit is expected to attract tens of thousand of guests and dignitaries,” said SleepOut.com CEO Johann Jenson.

Additionally, with the availability of a wide variety of accommodation; from luxury homes to backpackers and bed and breakfasts, accommodation sites like SleepOut.com are positioning themselves for traffic spikes as guests search for convenient places to stay near the downtown core.
Jenson says the company is up to the task and is able to handle as many bookings as possible.

The last time Obama was in Kenya was in 2006 when he was Senator for Illinois and this year’s visit will be his first he is making to his ancestral home as the President of the United States and the fourth in Africa during his tenure.

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