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Dusit hotel reopens after January terror attack

Wednesday July 31 2019

Cabinet Secretaries for Tourism Najib Balala

Cabinet Secretaries for Tourism Najib Balala (3rd right), Sports Amina Mohamed (3rd left) and Defence Raychelle Omamo among other dignitaries during the reopening of DusitD2 hotel on July 31, 2019. The hotel was the scene of a terror attack in January. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

BRIAN OKINDA
By BRIAN OKINDA
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HILARY KIMUYU
By HILARY KIMUYU
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A battalion of armed security personnel greets you as you enter the new-look Dusit D2 Hotel, complete with sniffer hounds, having got to sniff any one intending to get into the complex.

A number of plainclothes security men also roam the complex, perhaps eavesdropping on any conversation.

At least two security checkpoints at the gates now await the visitors as they make their way into the complex hosting the luxury hotel, among other tenants.

These are just a few of the thorough security measures the hotel has put in place to counter any repeat of a terror attack that shook it to the core in January this year.

Dusitd2 Hotel on Riverside Drive in Westlands, Nairobi reopens its doors on Wednesday, six months after the terror attack that left 21 people dead.

During the reopening of the complex at 14 Riverside Drive in Nairobi, Tourism Cabinet Secretary (CS), Najib Balala assured Kenyans that the country had bounced back even stronger from the January 15, 2019 Dusit D2 terrorist attack.

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The reopening ceremony has been marked by the hoisting of three flags by icon athlete David Rudisha and head of the hotel chain/

The Thai-owned hotel chain closed its doors after the January 15 attack by Al-Shaabab militants for renovations.

The hotel, which is the main tenant in the 14 Riverside Complex remained closed even after other offices reopened.

It will open its doors to the public on Thursday.

Athlete David Rudisha leads team carrying

Athlete David Rudisha leads team carrying Kenyan and Dusit flags to mark reopening of the hotel on July 31, 2019 after the January terror attack. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The tourism sector, CS Balala said, has consistently shown growth, undaunted by the events of the attack on the Thai-owned hotel that claimed over 20 lives at the start of the year.

In an event marked by the hoisting of the Kenyan flag alongside the flags of the Dusit International brand as well as that of Dusit D2, CS Balala said the attack marked a sad day, not just for the hotel, but for the entire country.

“But Kenya emerged stronger and has consistently been growing its tourist numbers. The country has rebounded from the terror threats and we intend never to let the events of that day happen again,” Mr Balala said.

The CS further recognised the hotel brand’s owners for having faith in the country and reinvesting in it.

Police Inspector General of Police at the time of the attack, Mr Joseph Boinett, who is now Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, acknowledged the rapid response and role played by security officers as well as members of the public in suppressing the hostage situation.

He asked Kenyans to stand strong in defeating terrorism in the country.

DusitD2 hotel

DusitD2 hotel staff prepare to receive dignitaries at the reopening of the establishment on July 31, 2019 after the January terror attack. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Mr Michael Metaxas, who is the hotel’s general-manager acknowledged that while business may have been low then at the complex, it is sure to pick up with the reopening of the hotel.

In a statement last month, the hotel said that it had enhanced its security measures and retrained its staff.

“During the time of our closure, we have taken time to train our staff in various aspects including customer service in line with the global Dusit Hotels and Resorts. In order to reinforce the safety of our guests, we have also enhanced security measures right from the entrance of the 14 Riverside Complex,” read the statement.

He indicated that all the staff he had before the attack had been recalled to their jobs at the hotel prepared to begin its operations today after a six-month break.

Motorcycle outriders to escort the Dusit flags

Motorcycle outriders to escort the Dusit flags to mark its reopening at the hotel complex on July 31, 2019. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

In the wake of the terror attack, hundreds of volunteers trooped to hospitals to donate blood for victims with online taxi-hailing service Uber offering free trips to the health facilities.

A woman was also served meals to the rescuers and security forces from a van outside the hotel complex.

The coming together of Kenyans during this tragic incident was best captured by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who in a televised address a day after the attack said “For every act of evil that led to injury, there were a dozen acts of compassion, overflowing patriotism and individual courage.”

REOPENING

For Bootsy Mutiso, a fashions dealer in the complex, what would have been a normal business day was turned chaotic on that day when gunmen stormed his establishment just as he was relocating into a new shop.

Mr Mutiso, who was lucky to escape with two of his employees, is now relieved that business will be back to normal.

He reopened his shop at the same spot just some months after the attack, but says business was yet to pick. “Security has been improved and it is better than it was then. Most of the tenants are back,” he said.

Back to normal soon

“But business is seemingly slow at the moment, but with the reopening of the hotel, I believe things will go back to normal soon,” Mr Mutiso said.

Those at the event included Defence CS Raychelle Omamo, and her Sports counterpart Amina Mohamed.