By Prudence Minayo
For over five decades, the iconic Hilton Hotel in the heart of Nairobi came to symbolize wealth and was a meeting point for the common man. At one point it was a magnet for tourists, the business community and moneyed locals. The imposing hotel has 287 rooms made up of 45 twins, 185 doubles and seven suites. Not forgetting the 27 executive rooms and 22 pool rooms. It is a walking distance to the Kenya National Archives and the Jamia mosque. From the outstanding hospitality to the vast array of delicacies, the Hilton Hotel was the go-to place for the wealthy clientele.
The announcement over the closure of the hotel caused a stir among many Kenyans. After 53 years of operating, the hotel decided to permanently close its doors on December 31. They, however, stated that they would not quit operations in Kenya. Other holdings in the country owned by Hilton Worldwide Holding are Hilton Nairobi Hurlingham and Hilton Garden Inn Nairobi.
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History and establishment
The Hilton Hotel in Kenya under the Hilton Worldwide Holding Inc. portfolio is founded by the Conrad Hilton. The American chain of hotels was established in May 1919 and has presence in 119 countries, has over 6,100 properties with over 971,000 rooms and a workforce of 430,000. Before their initial public offering in 2013, Forbes ranked the ubiquitous hotel as the 36th largest public company in the United States.
Hilton is very much a powerhouse in the United States. In 2020, Fortune named the hotel the best company to work for (for the second year in a row). The wealthy family behind the hotel has often made headlines in the US. They have been featured marrying popular actors and some like Paris and Nicky Hilton for turning from socialites to moguls.
Also Read: The Seven Multi-Billion Hotels Owned By The Kenyatta Family
Hilton Hotel Nairobi first opened its doors on 17th December 1969 in a pompous ceremony officiated by Kenya’s founding father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. At the time, the hotel was the tallest building in the city. It attracted tourists from far and wide as it promised exceptional services and panoramic views of the city.
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While Covid-19 has greatly affected the hospitality industry, the hotel cited reasons beyond the pandemic for the decision to indefinitely close.
“Covid-19 created unprecedented challenges for our industry. However, the decision to cease operations is not directly connected to the pandemic,” said Hilton.
The hotel said there would be retrenchment. However, they would try as much as possible to help some of its employees get employment in other Hilton subsidiaries.
Also Read: 5 Star Hotels in Nairobi And Their Owners
Hilton Group of Hotels owns 59.42% of the hotel while the government of Kenya owns the rest through the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation.
According to Business Daily, the government had unsuccessfully tried to relinquish its holding of three luxury hotels for almost 10 years, the Hilton included. The government owns 40.57 per cent in International Hotels Kenya Limited, a company that owns Hilton.
It is published that the government’s unwillingness to infuse money in the two extravagant hotels caused disquiet among other shareholders.
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