Sanjeev Tiwari Presents The Heron Portico: One of the Best Hotels in Nairobi

Sanjeev Tiwari gives an overview of the hospitality sector in Kenya and presents The Heron Portico, one of Nairobi’s finest and best known business hotels, located at a distance of 3 kilometers from the city center and about 18 kilometers from the airport.

Interview with Sanjeev Tiwari, General Manager of The Heron Portico

Sanjeev Tiwari, General Manager of The Heron Portico

What is your assessment of the hospitality sector in Kenya at the moment? What is your outlook for 2017 and onwards?

Kenya is a very mature market. In the last seven years, the number of rooms in Nairobi has grown to about 4,800 units. This city is projected to grow more than 70 percent. We will be adding another 3,000 rooms in the future. The majority, over 60 percent, will be offered in the Westlands area. About 30 percent will be in the Upper Hill area, which is the second Central Business District. The remainder will be near the airport.

Do you foresee any big changes in the sector in the next few years?

Next year will be a little challenging because of the elections. I am quite hopeful that it will be a peaceful election. Once that is over, we will see better results in terms of our occupancies.

What is your professional background?

I have been in this industry for the last 18 years. I started my career with Holiday Inn. I have worked with companies like Carlson Rezidor, Best Western and several other hotels.

What is the history of the hotel since its inception? What facilities and services can people find here?

Kenya is a very mature market. In the last seven years, the number of rooms in Nairobi has grown to about 4,800 units. This city is projected to grow more than 70 percent. We will be adding another 3,000 rooms in the future.

The Heron Portico is a very old hotel. We started our operation and began receiving guests in 1975. Since then, the hotel has gone through a great deal of transformations and changes. We are now part of Sarovar Hotels India. We took over the management of this hotel in 2012. Now, after more than 40 years, we are well established as the best business hotel in this city, and we are ranked among the top ten hotels in Nairobi on TripAdvisor. That gives us a lot of confidence and speaks to our credibility and what we offer for our business travelers. This is the finest hotel for a business traveler. It has all the facilities they need. In terms of the food and beverage offerings, we have a multicuisine restaurant, a lounge bar, a garden café and a poolside restaurant. Our meeting and banqueting spaces are divided into five rooms and can accommodate a total of 200 people at any given time. We also offer excellent internet service.

The Heron Portico is ranked among the top ten hotels in Nairobi
The Heron Portico began receiving guests in 1975 and is ranked among the top ten hotels in Nairobi.

What can business travelers find near the hotel? Is it easy for guests to get around?

The biggest advantage for The Heron Portico is the location. The Central Business District is within walking distance, only two kilometers away. Popular destinations such as various restaurants, the National Park and The Giraffe Center are within 30 minutes’ drive. The airport is only 25 to 30 minutes from the hotel.

What is your main strength and what makes you different from the competition?

You will notice once you enter that the hotel has a very Swahili and coastal feel to it. Getting those themes in a hotel in a city center is not very easy. All these modern hotels have similar, cookie-cutter design. The Heron Portico is a heritage property. We have a different character embodied in the ambiance, the design and the services we offer, which is what makes us different from other hotels. We are ranked 9th out of 157 hotels in Nairobi, so we must be doing something right.

What restaurants does the hotel offer?

We offer global cuisine because we receive guests from all over the world. We also cater to local salesmen, so African cuisine is very popular here at our property, as well. Our three outlets offer various cuisines. The multicuisine restaurant serves mainly continental African and Asian cuisine. The coffee shop has light refreshments and drinks. The pool side restaurant is best known for grilled and barbeque fare.

The Heron Portico offers global cuisine options
The Heron Portico offers global cuisine options to cater for the needs of its guests coming from all over the world.

What is special about the staff here?

They are our greatest asset. They are the stars. Without them, this would not have been possible. It is the staff who is responsible for all that we have achieved in the last many years. We have staff who have been working with us for more than 20 years, and that gives us that confidence that we are in the right business.

Do you provide training for your staff?

Sarovar Hotel is very focused on training. Our corporate office provides support for our external training and we also have e-learning for all our employees. Starting from the junior-most employee to the general manager, everyone has a login ID and password. At a convenient time for them, they can always log into our platform and complete e-learning.

How do you reach your guests? What do you do to advertise the hotel?

We are very strong in marketing. While driving, you can see our billboards and our streetlight posts. On social media, we have our own Facebook page, an Instagram account, and we receive continuous feedback through TripAdvisor. We believe in word of mouth publicity. If I take care of my guests, they will spread the word about us and they will become our ambassadors.

What has your occupancy rate been in the last few months?

The hotel does over 70 percent occupancy, year round. In the last two or three months, we have done even better because of the international conferences which were being held in the city.

The Heron Portico does over 70 percent occupancy, year round
The Heron Portico does over 70 percent occupancy, year round.

What kind of reviews have you received recently?

There have been very positive reviews. People really talk about our employees, and that is something we take great pride in. We have personalized service. People recognize us. I have guests who come here every other month and my employees know them by name.

What are the main challenges to be faced on a daily basis?

The main challenge here is the competition, though we are prepared for it. In the next 15 months to two years, another 2,000 rooms will be added to the city. There will be a lot of pressure on the occupancies and the average room rate. But we are very confident in the kind of offerings we have and our position in the market. We will be able to sail through.

Do you have any plans for expansion?

Sarovar Hotels India operates a boutique hotel called The Zehneria Portico, which is a 56 room property. It is located in the Westlands area, which is the second largest Central Business District. We plan to open a five star hotel at the airport called The Lazizi Premiere. It will be the first hotel to be inside the airport complex in Nairobi. There will be over 150 rooms, multiple food and beverage outlets, a special lounge for airport crew and meeting facilities.

Why should our international audience choose your hotel?

They should choose us for the products and services we offer and the facilities that we have. International business travelers look for a comfortable bed, a clean room, breakfast with global offerings and cuisine, as well as working internet. We are a hotel where you will find value for your money.

Business travelers are your main clientele. Do you also have any other major client segments?

Our focus is mainly on business travelers. We have a bit of seasonal leisure travel guests which accounts for about 10 to 15 percent of our business.

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