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News – Jamiat Hotel Nairobi Rebrands!!

The Kenyan hotel industry may be overcrowded but the market has barely been scratched. This is the message that Festus Munyithya, the general manager of new market entrants, Jamia Central Hotel formerly Jamiat Hotel, located along Kimathi Street / Tubman road is sending. With the tourism boom being experienced in the country after the 2007 / 2008 post election chaos, the manager is confident that great potential lies ahead.

He has the right reasons to be optimistic. The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) has in recent times been carrying out massive promotional campaigns to market Kenya as a perfect tourist and conference destination. The move has led to increased foreign interest in Kenya as a travel destination and tourists are flocking into the country. Besides tourists, the country's capital, Nairobi, is attracting another breed of visitors - the conference visitor. The city has become a popular venue for international conferences and meetings. A case in point is the recently concluded World Environmental Earth Hour International Conference  which saw more than 80 countries around the globe converge in Nairobi. Add this to the regular conflict resolution meetings for war-torn Somalia and Sudan and you have a city that has one of the busiest conference calendars in the continent. Domestic travel is also on the rise spurred by the vibrant economy.

Jamia Central Hotel is the brainchild of experienced catering industry entrepreneurs who have previously invested a lot in the Middle East, Europe and America. Despite the country being awash with many hotels, Jamia Central Hotel is unique in that it is housed above a business center with more than 300 shopping outlets. Mr. Munyithya notes that this is a new concept in Kenya but a common one in Asia, Middle East and Europe. The only other big hotel in Kenya operating under a similar concept is Panari Hotel located at the Panari Sky Centre. 'We are the only hotel in town where a guest can access shopping facilities without walking out of the hotel premises,' he says. Guests are able to access curio and ornamental shops, chemists, boutiques and Saloon shops on the 1st floor of the mall

The second factor that makes Jamia Central unique is its non-alcoholic policy. According to the hotel manager, no alcoholic beverages will be allowed or sold in the hotel's premises. This is an important consideration because the hotel plans to attract a diversified client base. 'This is a big factor since we are also targeting Christians and Muslims organizations who want a place that is morally accommodating' he says. The hotel is fitted with a parking bay which can accommodate more than 100 cars. In addition, the hotel with a 63 bed capacity boasts of 31 luxuriously well appointed rooms that have both superior and deluxe choice .All the rooms are en-suite with separate hot showers and are custom made with interconnecting rooms for families; guests are free to choose between smoking and non smoking rooms. The rooms are also fitted with wireless internet connectivity, electronic safes, satellite televisions and tea and coffee making facilities. The hotel's businesses centre 'Cyber Express' and the multi theme Jamia restaurant provides a complete package for the hotel guests.
Jamia Central Hotel has also instituted a firm security arrangement. Besides employing 12 guards who keep watch around the building at night, being adjacent to the Central Police station is an added advantage. But perhaps the most outstanding security facility is the electronic lock system 'saflok' that is incorporated in the hotel's software. The system ensures that only a booked guest can access a room. With this, chances of guests losing their valuables are limited.

While assembling a world class facility is critical move towards attracting clients, the manager clearly understands this is just the beginning. This is why together with the directors; have decided to position the hotel in the four-star category. Higher star ratings often indicate hotels with higher levels of luxury available. For instance, the term five star hotel is always associated with ultimate luxury and by implication, expense. On the other hand, a four star hotel is a first class hotel which is not very expensive and has semi-luxury services like massages, health spa and swimming pool. 'The way a hotel is rated has all to do with the quality of the investment and the standard of the facility,' he explains.

There is a general view from hotel operators that standardization and classification of hotels and restaurants has not been the best. For instance, last year, some four star hotels were listed as two star hotels This problem is also experienced globally allowing marketing-driven inflation, with some hotels claiming six stars; at one point, the Burj al-Arab of Dubai marketed itself as the world's first seven-star hotel.
Even with such weaknesses in the rating procedures, Jamia Central has an uphill task to prove that it has what it takes to warrant a four-star tug. This means that what is expected of them is nothing less than internationally recognized standards of such a facility. These include such facilities as a fitness centre, broadband internet access, a health club and swimming pool, executive suites among others. At present, such facilities are missing but Mr. Munyithya says it's only a matter of time before the hotel becomes self contained. 'We market ourselves as a four star hotel but the kind of facilities you will find here are comparable with those found in a five star establishments,' he envisions.

The Manager also knows that competition in this line of business is indeed cut throat. There are many established hotels right in the centre of the city, some of which have been in existence for a long period of time and have therefore cut out a market niche for themselves. But Mr. Munyithya says he is not perturbed by competition, adding that Jamia Central will emphasize on the quality of service. He explains that to win in the hotel business, the quality of service comes first. 'You might be having the same kind of facilities as your competitors but what determines the success of a business is the quality of services you are offering to your clients,' he stresses. To ensure that the quality of service remains outstanding, the hotel has recruited a team of highly qualified personnel in the service industry and currently developing a training program for the staff.

Apart from competition, another challenge for the hotel is developing the conference facility service. Most companies have signed meetings and conference contracts with existing hotels which they use whenever there is a need. Jamia Central will have developed a unique conference facility by the end of May this year and will rely on the central location, the secure ample parking and exemplary service to penetrate the market. In addition, the existing travel advisory by the United States against Kenya demands that a hotel seeking to host international meetings put up exceptionally secure conference facilities. This calls for a huge investment, a cost the hotel directors seem ready to bear for as Mr. Munyithya puts it, 'you can't have real value for investment unless you put up the best'.

Mr. Munyithya has more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry and began his career at the Alliance Hotels at the South Coast before moving to Holiday Inn Nairobi where he served for 9 years in management. He then went on to work for Mada Hotels as a unit manager before spearheading the opening of jamiat hotel which later rebranded to Jamia Central Hotel, he was also instrumental in the pre opening and managing of their sister hotel, the five star Almond Resort in Garissa. A holder of two diplomas, one in hotel and institutional management and  business administration, and having risen through the ranks of the hotel industry, it is clear that the man has what it takes to get the hotel off the ground.

His vision for the business in the next two years is to increase bed capacity and put up a state-of the-art swimming pool, fitness centre, additional rooms and more conference facilities. Above all, he wants the hotel to become a five star facility in the next three years. 'We will be among the top performing hotels in terms of occupancy, facilities, revenue and guest satisfaction,' he concludes.