Thursday, May 13, 2010

Falling Stars: Ranting about the Intercontinental Hotel

Some of my better memories include Jazz and Karaoke at the Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi, about 3-4 yrs ago when the Hotel perhaps had the best Jazz players in town. There was salsa as well, though I didn’t do the salsa nights much. More recently though, some journalists were invited for their "Chefs table" a grand event where we got to sample the best of the hotel, we got a tour of the presidential suite and got served in the Kitchen, the experience was beautiful. Karl Hala & Daniel ebo did a pretty good job at it. First Class.

But, as they say, the best time to sample a hotel is when you go in as a regular guest. The Intercontinental Hotel failed the test, terribly. We got to the hotel at 9.00pm and within a couple of hours spent at the pool bar, all the stars dropped, (not sure if it's a 3 or 4 star), but I would only give it one star.

A colleague had been staying at the hotel this week during a certain conference, and it was his last night in town. The team took him out to a pub after work, and because he had to watch the Fulham - ATL match, he suggested we move on to the Intercontinental, watch football and bond over drinks.

The boys left in one car, and Rachel, our editor came with me. We drove into the Hotel, hoping to find a parking spot near the entrance, where I used to park before. The Security guard dragged a No parking sign in front of us, and that road block spike thingy across the road, and proceeded to walk away, as if we did not exist.

Not a word, not even, "You cannot find parking here ma'am, please try elsewhere" or even a hand motion to direct me to leave. It was as if we did not exist.

I reversed and drove out into the parking lot that’s inside the building, found a good spot and walked down into the hotel. The security guys at the back entrance were pretty cool, they said hello as we passed through security and we made a joke saying they should take the security guys at the front through the same school they trained in.

Kelly, Kent and our colleague from Joburg were already at the pool bar, as we went through the Lobby, a security man called to us, in the corridor, “excuse me madams”. I said, “Thanks, we know where we are going”.

“Excuse me madams, can you please stop first, where are you going?

“No, thanks I said we know where we are going. To the pool bar”

The man now created a mini spectacle following us (while still calling us to stop) as we headed towards the pool. We finally did stop and I asked him why wanted to know where we were going, and I offered to say that we were not lost. By this time I was angry and asked him if he asks everyone who walks in where they are going, surely, the security who let us in, in the first place must have believed we had something to do at the hotel?

The boys noticed there was an issue and came to our “rescue” just to have the security guy try to explain why he was stopping us.

Is it that two grown working women cannot buy themselves a drink at the bar (even though the boys were already seated at the bar). I am still yet to understand if the security guys undergo any training at all, thing is, if he was trained and thought we were there as night girls he should have watched us for a while and then make a decision after that, and approach us, politely.

I wonder how many decent women in Nairobi go through this embarrassing scenario.
Perhaps the Intercontinental should put up a sign that says “Residents only” at every entrance.

I hope to God no one I know ever ends up staying at the Intercontinental!


  1. Pole about that; last time I was there with a certain Kenyan Pundit, treatment was fair and they generally handle resident conference delegates well. Perhaps some staff training is in order for new guards, as the regulars usually handle celebs (like you) with kid gloves - saw two MP's alight from cars and walk around metal detectors while talking on phone and security didn't blink, and also Wanjala & Akinyi had a seat of honour as they entertained their fellow...

  2. you are not the only one who has gone through that. They assume all unaccompanied women are prostitutes which is just sad.

  3. Sorry Terry, usually go for the salsa nyts but they are used 2 our crowd. Iv never seen them chase even the night gals. I think they expect something small from them to let them thru. Its a shame that they didn't have more tact in handling the situation.
    Gloria N.

  4. The management of InterContinental Nairobi, would like to thank you for the honest feedback, take this matter very seriously and will look into how we can improve on our services and making sure every guest feels welcomed.

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  6. Chebet, this has been like that at Intercont for the last 10 years or so. As one other commentator stated. Woman alone (even in a bunch) are considered being solicitors for clients. Same applies to the Hilton by the way, where it happened to a colleague of mine who was staying there for SAP (she had to shoe her room key every day) ....welcome to Kenyan hotel hospitality training and a world full of prejudice....

  7. I was there in 2005 going for salsa on a Friday as is customary for me. My dance partner happened to have arrived earlier than me and I was therefore unaccompanied. Those loatheful guards stopped me and asked for ID, pretended to go to their computers and informed me that they couldn't admit me because I had been an extra at one time at their hotel (impolite for prostitute or someone who preys on their guests). As expected, I was completely miffed. I even offered to name all the band members of the salsa quintet who play there and who recognize and know me by name! This was really shoddy treatment especially for a regular patron. Eventually, threats that my being a journalist would have them pay dearly for the mistreatment and a call to my dad who once managed one of the more popular city hotels had them write me an apology. This incident has been long seared in my memory and I'm not likely to forget it soon!

  8. Sorry about the mishap, ive had no trouble at all there. They have very enticing discounts for members and reserved parking. It was probably a regrettable one off.

  9. I'd like to thank the management of the Intercontinental Hotel, Daniel Ebo and Kavi for responding to my rants:I must say I did not expect it and I am only lucky that it draw some attention. (not my intention either). Some of the comments above are positive, but I must say the afflicted parties are always women, but I hope that the matter is addressed and your feamle guests feel as dignified walking in, as will going out.

    (I'll be back)


  10. Pole sana. I see from your recent post that you've been placated ;)

  11. @Tamaku...where you been? Thanks for dropping by! Yes, I met some friends there recently and I was pretty comfortable.;-)