Sun sets on iconic Kisumu hotel stuck in a time warp - Beaking Kenya News

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Monday, 3 June 2019

Sun sets on iconic Kisumu hotel stuck in a time warp

Sunset Hotel
VICTOR OTIENO             
By VICTOR OTIENO            
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The commissioning of Sunset Hotel, Kisumu on November 26, 1977 by Vice-President and Minister for Home Affairs Daniel arap Moi marked a new dawn for the hospitality industry in western Kenya. In its heyday, the 50-room hotel in Milimani Estate was patronised by who-is-who in Kenya.
Sunset, alongside Imperial and Kisumu — which are less than a kilometre apart — were the only high-end hotels in the lakeside town.
Sunset brought hope to the hotel industry in Kisumu in particular and western Kenya in general.
However, there was little activity at the hotel, which is next to Impala Animal Sanctuary, last weekend. 
No vehicle moved in or out of Sunset Hotel compound.
It was dead silent, a stark contradiction to what Sunset was about 30 years ago, when government officials would flock in for accommodation and conferences.
For about 20 years, Mr Peter Ouko has been a part of the Sunset Hotel story. As a supplier, he knows all too well when the rain began to beat the hotel. When he won a tender to supply Irish potatoes to the hotel in the late 1990s, Mr Ouko considered it a jackpot and a dream come true.
He was assured of good business, going by the thousands of people who visited the hotel to enjoy the cool Lake Victoria breeze and have a glimpse of the setting sun.
Mr Ouko would promptly receive his monthly payment of about Sh200,000.
But the party did not last long. Around May 2004, the supplier noticed that his payment delayed.
The Sunset Hotel management informed him and other suppliers that they would be paid on a later date. That was not to be.
The financial problems facing the hotel have dragged on since.
Mr Ouko is owed some Sh900,000 — an amount that dates back to 2015.
Ms Celestine Achieng who supplied fruits and vegetables to the hotel is owed Sh940,000, dating back to 2013.
With business crumbling, the 40-year-old Sunset Hotel laid off more than 50 employees on Saturday. 
Ironically, this was just after the government announced plans to put up a 6,000-seater conference hall on the hotel grounds.
Construction of the multimillion-shilling hall is in preparation for the upcoming Africities Summit to be held in Kisumu in 2021.
The project is to be implemented by the Ministry of Tourism.
Already, the ministry has given the hotel Sh300 million to start the project that is expected to improve the skyline of the lakeside city.
During the launch of the preparations for the ninth edition of the Africities Summit on Thursday, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa mentioned government commitment to invest heavily in infrastructure and services in Kisumu.
“My Cabinet colleague Najib Balala has informed me that his ministry will spearhead the process as Kisumu prepares to bring on board more than 8,000 delegates from around the world,” he said.
Sunset general manager Joseph Oduor told the Nation that staff have not been paid for months. He blamed the situation on dwindling business “caused by the poor services we are offering compared to other hotels”.
He added that Sunset has made huge losses in the last 15 years.
“The flow of business has been low. Our employees have not been paid for more than six months,” he said, adding that Sunset has not been upgraded to match the standards of other hotels.
Market dynamics
He named Acacia and Grand Royal Swiss as some of the hotels that have beaten the 40-year-old Sunset in the business.
“Sunset was built in the 1970s and it was revered by all then. Business was good, but there has been no refurbishment since then. Market dynamics have changed, but we have not,” he said.
Western Kenya Hoteliers Association chairman Robinson Anyal says corruption may have also played a role in the collapse of Sunset.
“Corruption at the top level has led to its struggling state. We have heard complaints that money meant for the hotel from the government was misused,” Mr Anyal said.
The Sunset Hotel board of management’s decision to send the workers home came less than a year after Auditor-General Edward Ouko declared the hotel technically bankrupt, having accumulated losses amounting to more than Sh117 million by the end of June 2017.
Mr Ouko also indicated a negative working capital of Sh27 million as the amount dropped from Sh82 million in the 2015/16 financial year to Sh55 million in 2016/17 fiscal year.

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