Fr Kabutu says that the resort has no restrictions since it is a purely commercial facility.
One kilometre off the Northern Bypass, between Nairobi’s Runda estate and Kiambu County, a new resort has been opened.
Elysian Resort, a Sh500 million investment by the Catholic Diocese of Murang'a, sits on five acres, with an additional undeveloped 2.5 acres. It’s an unusual investment for a church, given that it will offer normal hotel services, including a bar and accommodation.
According to Fr Elias Kabutu, the diocese’s finance administrator, they originally wanted to build a standard church retreat centre or rental apartments but settled on a commercial retreat and conference centre.
The first phase of the project comprises conference rooms with a capacity of over 350 people. The facility boasts 42 rooms, a contemporary restaurant, bar, coffee shop, poolside restaurant, high-tech gym and a children’s park.
“Because of our location and size, the original idea morphed into a modern conference and convention facility, with a distinctive blend of comfort, style and hospitality,” says Fr Kabutu, who has worked with the project consultants since the groundbreaking in 2015.
The first guests checked in on April 30, while the resort opened to the public on May 1 this year. “The response for walk-ins, conferences, meetings and events has been extremely encouraging.” says Fr Kabutu.
The resort targets church retreats, events, children’s recreation, capacity- and team-building exercises, personal recreation, conferences and meetings for corporates, non-governmental organisations, government, as well as individual events and accommodation.
“There are no restrictions as this is a purely commercial facility,” he said.
“We serve all guests without discrimination and walking around, you will feel the church in our culture of service to humanity. And of course, the presence of a chapel for prayers for our Christian clients is a worthwhile addition.”
He noted that the resort, which will employ over 400 people when complete, has opened at a time when tourism and business travel is picking after a two-year slowdown.
The Elysian management is also betting on the growth of the hospitality sector; the last five years have seen more than 10 r establishments open in the country. Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers says that Nairobi needs an additional 2,400 beds to meet the growing demand.
To tap into this potential, Elysian Resort’s management says it will begin phase two next year to double its room capacity and, eventually, the third phase to push the number of rooms to 120 as it aspires for four-star rating.
“The project’s proceeds will contribute towards the diocese’ overall objective of evangelisation, and supporting the over 50 socio-economic projects the diocese is currently running,” he said.
The resort’s construction has been funded mainly through contributions from Murang’a parishioners, friends and well-wishers.
The Bishop of Murang’a Diocese, the Rt Rev James Maria Wainaina, said the resort will provide proportionate financial resources that will go towards the work of God, adding that it has been built on the tenets of a “peaceful and heavenly” garden, right from its architectural design to its decor of nature and is, therefore, a place of retreat and growth.
The last two or so years have seen both international and domestic tourism grow in Kenya attributed to the lifting of travel advisories. The growth of domestic tourism has been strong, directly linked to the improving economic environment and a series of incentives introduced by government.
There has also been growth in business meetings and conferences. In 2016, Kenya hosted several international conferences, and will in October this year host the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF), the premier hotel investment conference in Africa, attracting many prominent international hotel owners, investors, financiers, management companies and their advisers.
“This steady growth of tourism and travel means demand for additional beds and conference facilities,” said Fr Kabutu
International hotel brands, led by Radisson, Marriot and Best Western are amongthe newest facilities in Nairobi, alongside Sheraton, Ramada, Hilton, and Mövenpick.