‘You should have been here last night,” Bruce said. “This place was packed.”
Bruce is the front-of-house manager of the Acacia Premier Hotel in Kisumu. He was talking about the Aqua Pool Bar and Grill. And the occasion was a normal Friday evening out on the town.
I was not surprised – that the Aqua Pool bar was packed, I mean. It’s a very attractive place: clean-cut, spacious and airy – as you will see from my photo. What you might not see from the photo is that it has a view over the trees and out to Lake Victoria.
I used to say that the ideal hotel for Kisumu would be one that combined the good qualities of three existing hotels – and didn’t have their downsides.
The Sunset Hotel used to be my favourite; it certainly lives up to its name, with its magnificent views over the lake from all the bedrooms as the sun goes down. Sadly, the hotel itself went down. But I must admit that the last time I was there was a few years ago, so if it has gone up again, I apologise.
Then there is the Imperial along Jomo Kenyatta Avenue. It is an efficient hotel, with good food, and some fascinating photographs of old Kisumu in the dining room. But its decor is rather sombre, and the ambiance is somewhat claustrophobic.
The first hotel I visited, back in 1973, was the Kisumu Hotel. I was lucky enough to have a meeting there with Raila’s father, the nationalist and first Vice-President, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. It was a very elegant setting for the talk – a deep and long veranda with plump, colonial-style wicker chairs. Having been taken over by Maseno University, sadly, the open veranda has gone.
Well, like the Sunset, the Acacia Premier does have its view over the lake; with its cream and beige decor, it is more open, light and expansive than the Imperial – and it certainly doesn’t need any of the old Kisumu Hotel’s colonial flavour. It is confidently contemporary.
I was there for the inauguration event, which has been rather long in coming, since the hotel actually opened its doors in June. But I can well understand why the owners, the Simba Colt Group, wanted to wait until facilities and services were well bedded-in, so to speak.
Also, after establishing the Kempinski-managed hotel in Nairobi, the Acacia Premier is Simba Colt’s first self-managed hotel in what they intend to be a chain across East Africa. The second link in the chain will be an Acacia hotel in Naivasha.
And why choose Kisumu as the first link in the chain? Adil Popat, the CEO of the Simba Colt Group, answered that question when he spoke at the very well-attended launch. He said that the Acacia hotels will be exemplars of African hospitality – and that he himself had found the Luo community among the most hospitable in Kenya.
The slogan of the Acacia Premier is “The true home of African Hospitality.” The hotel is conveniently located adjoining the smart West End Mall on Achieng’ Oneko Road. It has 94 rooms, equipped with air-conditioning, in-room Wi-Fi with a strong signal, flat-screen satellite TV with a good selection of DSTV channels, plenty of wardrobe space, a work desk, and a mini-bar. It claims to have the only presidential suite in the region.
The hotel is also well-equipped for meetings and special events. Its ballroom holds up to 260 people; while there are three other rooms for smaller groups in seminars or workshops. For a break from conferencing or workshopping, there is the gym with its shiny torture machines and a wellness spa with its gentler ways of relaxing muscles. And the pool is, I think, the pick of the place.
The food is good, too. For a pop-in place to have a coffee and a cake, the Barista Lounge off the lobby is quite stylish. For a proper meal, the first-floor Café Acacia offers an eclectic menu and buffet options. On the second floor you can have a drink and grill at the Aqua Pool Bar. And there’s the small and cosy Buzz Bar, to which I escaped for 15 minutes during the launch to watch Bournemouth snatch a glorious one-goal win against Chelsea.
Clearly, the Acacia Premier caters very well for the business traveller. But it has enough leisure facilities for those of you who want to do something different this Christmas from holidaying at the Coast or doing chores at your up-country home. The Kisumu Acacia has a Dala Package that is valid from December 1 to January 3. For a double it is Sh14,500 for one night, Sh26,000 for two, and Sh39,000 for three nights. The package includes complementary use of the gym and the pool, and a 10 per cent discount on all food and drink.