Norfolk reopens after 21 months of closure

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Norfolk reopens after 21 months of closure


The front view of the Fairmont Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE

Summary

  • A dispute over pay cuts forced the property’s owners to close its doors indefinitely nearly two years ago, laying off all employees.
  • The hotel, operated by French hotel giant Accor, is reopening after a refurbishment as the tourism industry emerges from its deep slump caused by Covid-19 and local travelers benefit from lower prices.
  • Kenya expects the tourism sector, typically one of its main sources of foreign exchange, to earn 173 billion shillings this year, up 18.5 percent from a year earlier, the government said.

The doors of Nairobi’s legendary Fairmont The Norfolk reopen today (Monday) after the facility was closed for over 21 months due to the coronavirus crisis.

A dispute over pay cuts forced the property’s owners to close its doors indefinitely and laid off all employees for nearly two years in a row, following the disruption and loss of revenue caused by the pandemic.

The hotel, operated by French hotel giant Accor, is reopening after a refurbishment as the tourism industry emerges from its deep slump caused by Covid-19 and local travelers benefit from lower prices.

The closure also comes weeks after Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal sold his stake in Fairmont The Norfolk and Fairmont Mara Safari Club to Nepalese tycoon Binod Chaudhary for an alleged Sh2.8 billion.

The prince reorganized his portfolio months after his arrest in Saudi Arabia’s sweeping crackdown on corruption.

Kenya expects the tourism sector, typically one of its main sources of foreign exchange, to earn 173 billion shillings this year, up 18.5 percent from a year earlier, the government said.

Revenue plummeted to Sh88.6 billion in 2020 as governments around the world restricted the movement of people, including by closing airspace to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

They rebounded to Sh146 billion last year, with hotel nights by Kenyan travelers doubling over the period.

Local resorts, which normally focus their marketing efforts on foreign tourists, have been forced by the pandemic to turn to the domestic market and offer discounted rates to lure vacationers. Norfolk is aiming for a chunk of growth.

“The hotel and Accor’s regional team have worked closely to ensure that the hotel and its facilities offer reinvented services in the heart of the city,” the hotel said in a statement announcing the reopening.

Kenya’s coronavirus cases have been falling steadily as the number of vaccinated has risen. The positivity rate now stands at 0.6 per cent as the country’s daily number of coronavirus cases continues to fall amid increased mass vaccination.

Most five-star hotels depend on tourism, events and conferences, which are slowly resuming normal operations.

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