Since Kenya lifted pandemic restrictions in 2021, both domestic and international travelers have made a comeback. According to Lodging Econometrics, Kenya had 2,844 rooms across 19 projects in the pipeline in Q4 2022. “The Kenyan hospitality sector continues to develop because of several factors, such as its growing economy, improving infrastructure, and business environment,” says Carlos Khneisser, Hilton’s vice president of development, MEA.
Kenya is also seeing a boost due to the proliferation of “revenge travel,” defined as travelers who want to make up for lost time during the pandemic by seeking out bucket list experiences, of which Kenya offers plenty. There’s cosmopolitan capital city, Nairobi, where the mixed-use Dusit Princess Hotel Residences Nairobi is in the works; the breathtaking landscapes and abundant wildlife of the savannahs and plains, which will soon be home to ultra-luxurious eco camps by Discover Collection; and coastal haven Malindi, which boasts the newest outpost of Billionaire Resort and Retreat. Below, we spotlight four properties that embody the unique breadth of Kenya’s hospitality offerings.
In November, luxury camp company Angama will open its latest outpost, Angama Amboseli, where upon arrival, staff will greet guests with “Karibu nyumbani,” meaning “Welcome home” in Swahili. “We want guests to feel at home and deeply cared for by our team,” says Alison Mitchell, head of special projects for Angama.
Located within the Kimana Sanctuary and designed in-house, the camp will be framed by sweeping views of Mount Kilimanjaro and is home to an abundance of wildlife, including the endangered Super Tusker elephant. The animals are considered throughout the property’s architecture, with a raised rim-flow swimming pool that includes a water trough that they can drink from and a viewing tower in a marshy area for guests to relax and observe them undisturbed. Elephants’ color and texture also serve as the inspiration for the design of the camp’s 10 guest suites.
The exteriors of the buildings will be crafted using a traditional, soil-based technique fortified with natural fibers, cement, and sand plaster. Aiming to preserve the lush landscape of the fever tree forest while creating the buildings’ foundations, they remained undisturbed thanks to careful digging in and around the tree roots. “We want [guests] to gain an understanding of the Amboseli ecosystem and their role in preserving this special place in Africa,” Mitchell says.
Hilton has 100 hotels either trading or in development across Africa, and, according to Khneisser, Hilton expects to “more than double” its portfolio in the next few years.” One of the company’s latest additions to the continent will come in April, when Kwetu Nairobi opens, marking the first Curio Collection by Hilton outpost in East Africa. The property, formerly a historic home dating back to the 1800s, was expanded for its transformation into a boutique hotel with five new interconnected buildings “allowing guests to journey through the property,” Khneisser explains, and now comprises 102 guestrooms, an outdoor pool, spa, fitness center, and a seasonal rooftop F&B concept. In the lobby, coffered ceilings create a dramatic scene, where a fireplace and seating area will offer a cozy area for guests just steps from the sleek lobby bar.
Upstairs, the guestrooms conceived by Les Harbottle Design are awash in calming hues, while accents like handblown glass pendants add a subtle pop of color and playful furnishings reference travel with suitcase-inspired leather and buckle trims. “The design was inspired by the rich history of not only the property but the city of Nairobi, creating a fusion of old historic appeal and modern contemporary design with a focus on luxury and comfort,” adds Khneisser.
Gigiri Nairobi MGallery
Accor, which already boasts six hotels in Kenya, including the Hotel Fairmont Mara Safari and Hotel Fairmont the Norfolk, will expand its presence in the country with the forthcoming, 105-key Gigiri Nairobi MGallery, set to debut in 2024 in the city’s affluent Gigiri neighborhood. Developed in partnership with the locally owned Jit Group, the interiors by Moscow-based Sundovky Sisters will nod to the developer’s gemstone business with jewel tone furnishings and an iridescent aesthetic.
The design studio is also taking care to include subtle yet authentic references to Africa via materiality, incorporating shells, wood, gold, and marble throughout the property, and by installing large banana palm trees in the lobby to bring the feel of the nearby Karura Forest indoors. Also in the lobby, which features dichroic-film accents on the walls and ceiling, a curvilinear bar crafted out of glass bricks will create a prism-like effect in changing light, particularly when the folding walls are in use to create an open-air ambience. The rooftop, which overlooks the forest, will boast a bar and restaurant (one of four F&B concepts) and an infinity pool with a terrazzo median providing an oasis for guests, while tying back into the stone accents throughout the hotel.
JW Marriott Masai Mara
Situated on the banks of Kenya’s Talek River within the Masaai Mara National Reserve, Marriott will celebrate its entry into Africa’s luxury tented camp market with the JW Marriott Masai Mara, opening in April. “Travelers are increasingly seeking immersive, transformative, and authentic experiences,” says Candice D’Cruz, vice president and continent brand leader – luxury for Marriott International, Europe, Middle East & Africa. To create such a destination, the all-inclusive camp comprises just 20 private tents and suites with a design inspired by natural elements as captured with wood finishes, sandstone tiles, and stone mosaics.
At the spa, sliding glass doors will open to let in the sunshine and sounds of nature while guests receive treatments. Also on the property, Sarabi Restaurant will boast a veranda for alfresco dining. And at the open-air Fig Tree Lounge, the social heart of the space is a fireplace where guests can gather and relax. Just off the lounge, a large viewing deck replete with a firepit, creates opportunities to watch wildlife day and night. “The location and landscape [are] synonymous with the design of the property, creating harmony with the natural world and a sense of calm,” adds D’Cruz.
To support the local communities and ecosystems, Marriott has partnered with several nonprofits including the conservancy-focused Maa Trust, the Mara Predator Conservation Program, and the Elephant Project, which will help educate guests about wildlife. “Destinations such as Kenya fulfill guests’ desire to go beyond visiting a place. They have the opportunity to connect [more deeply] with the community, [and] get to know the people, history, food, and culture of a destination.”
This article originally appeared in HD’s February/March 2023 issue.