Given its reputation, deserved or not, as a crime-ridden, chaotic Third World conurbation, Nairobi, Kenya, isn't high on the travel to-do lists of many jet-setters.
So it might come as a surprise to some that this city of 3 million is home to a growing, if small, number of upscale boutique and "lifestyle" hotels of the type found in major urban leisure destinations worldwide.
One of them, Tribe, a posh, 137-room and -suite Design Hotels affiliate, opened three-and-a-half years ago near the U.S. Embassy in the city's tony Gigiri quarter. It quickly created a name for itself as the city's first true boutique property, even making Conde Nast Traveler magazine's "Hot List" of must-see hotels in 2010. The hotel's uber-hip, global chic design aesthetic is enhanced by legion African artworks.
According to General Manager Mark Somen, leisure visitors comprise only about 20% of guests, with government, corporate and aid organization business accounting for the rest. The U.S. is the No. 1 source market for Tribe, which currently enjoys an 87% occupancy rate.
Most U.S. bookings are made by agents; retailers handle 20% of all reservations. "Leisure travelers will usually book us through an agent in the States, who then works with a local operator," Somen said.
Accommodations include 320-square-foot deluxe rooms; 420-square-foot superiors; 500-square-foot junior suites; 550-square-foot, split-level "Loft" business suites; 700-square-foot Ambassadorial suites; and a 1,000-square-foot Presidential suite.
All units boast large LCD TVs, free WiFi, open-plan bathrooms; rainfall showerheads, mood lighting, universal electrical outlets and complimentary minibars.
Hotel facilities include an outdoor pool; the Kaya Spa, with African- and Thai-inspired therapies; main restaurant Jiko, serving Kenyan and Western fare; Nest, a rooftop lounge; and a conference center. A second, outdoor restaurant serving Mediterranean dishes and tapas, tentatively to be named Sirocco, is planned for September.
The Third World outside Tribe's gates asserts itself occasionally; namely, the power tends to go off. Lights dim, air conditioning chokes up, ambient music falls silent -- at least for the 15 seconds or so it takes for one of two backup generators to kick in.
Rates at Tribe currently start from between $280 and $320 per night. The hotel offers agents net rates for markup but can pay formal commissions, as well. See www.tribe-hotel.com