By: VERAH OKEYO
The first thing that strikes you when you enter the rooms at Acacia Premier Hotel in Kisumu is the playful yet out-of-the ordinary colour palette used.
Blue, indigo and a tinge of grey— a colour more commonly associated with commercial settings rather than homes or hotels — splashed asymmetrically on either the curtains or the furniture.
This might be considered somewhat symbolic because just as grey is defying interior design and decor trends in the hotel’s rooms, the hotel’s debut is also changing the face of the lakeside town in regard to hospitality.
The Chair of the Western Kenya Hospitality Association, Robison Anyal, said that the opening of Acacia Premier Hotel, classified as a four-star institution, had gone a long way in bringing world class hospitality to Kisumu.
“For a long time this region’s growth was limited by lack of beds, and by opening its doors, Acacia has solved part of the problem but there is still much more to be done,” he told media.
Mr Anyal said that in the last five years, investors in the hospitality industry have been engaged in fierce competition, leading to the construction of the Great Lakes Hotel, The Vic and Impala Ecolodge, among others.
A report on tourism by the International Development Corporation (IDC) in 2012 It had mentioned that while Kisumu presented opportunities for an up-market clientèle, a lot more needed to be done to make its products internationally branded and affordable.
“The quality of our hospitality facilities has also been a great impediment to growth”, Mr Anyal said, “and Acacia hotel’s grading as a four-star facility, with a Sh55,000-a night presidential suite, will change that.”
For the last five years, reports and experts in ecotourism and hospitality management have described Kisumu as a place with potential to change the hospitality industry in the Lake Victoria region.
The IDC report, which studied the hospitality industry in select East and West African countries, singled out Kisumu as “an up-and-coming hospitality hotspot in the continent”.
And Dr Shem Maingi from Kenyatta University’s Department of Tourism Management described Kisumu as an area “rich in the Nilotic culture that would be an anthropological hub if marketed properly”.
According to the IDC report, Kisumu, with 12 graded hotels, was third in Kenya, coming after Nairobi, which had 63, and Mombasa, with 27. The 12 hotels in Kisumu are all within a five-kilometre radius of the town’s central business district.
Barely 800 metres from the 94-room Acacia, are hotels such as Sovereign, Imperial, and Royal City Hotel (which has three branches in the town) and Kisumu Hotel.
More hotels can be found slightly further towards the lake near Kilimani estate, while Rock Resort is located about 10 kilometres from the city centre on the way to Maseno.
For decades the 86-room Imperial Hotel was the largest in the region.
A look at the Acacia Hotel’s visitors’ book indicates that dignitaries such as governors and renowned businessmen have been accommodated at the facility barely three months after it was officially opened.
The governor’s conference, which took place at the Tom Mboya Labour Hotel in April this year, seemed to have been a wake-up call for Kisumu’s hotel owners.
Mr Anyal said that members of his association were working hard to exploit “emerging destinations”.
“The beaches are a favourite for people but security and their cleanliness are not working in our favour”, he said, adding that “there are also other tourist attractions around us such as Kakamega Forest, parks such as Ruma, Ndere, Impala, the Kisumu Museum and Kit Mikayi boulders on the outskirts of the town.
He said the investors would also exploit the fame of US President Barack Obama’s ancestral home in Kogelo in Alego, Siaya County, to promote tourism.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION