Not any soon: Norfolk hotel does not show signs of reopening its doors a year later

And little is known about when it may reopen even as the laid-off staff hope to hear from their employer.

After a century of operations in Kenya, having opened its doors in 1904, the Fairmont Hotels and Resorts management closed Norfolk and Fairmont Mara Safari Cub as a result of the “spiral effect of the Covid-19 pandemic” and the flooding of the Mara hotel.

In a May 27, 2020 memo to its staff, country manager Mehdi Morad said the Norfolk management had decided to cease operations and terminate “the services of all employees”.

“Demands by the employees at this time, and given the current financial constraints, are out of reach of the company. It is, therefore, the decision of the management to terminate the services of all employees due to frustration by way of mutual separation,” he said.

The Nation established at the time that Norfolk employees had declined a proposal to remain on unpaid leave during the coronavirus period and demanded 50 per cent pay, triggering the closure

One year later, not much is happening at the Norfolk. Locked grills and bored, hesitant security officers greet you at the entrance.

“We are under instructions not to allow visitors in,” a security officer told the Nation. “I’m not authorised to speak to nor allow the media in,” the officer added furtively.

“Since the Norfolk closed, this has been largely a lull period. When you notice painting work going on, that would be the clearest indicator that the hotel will be reopening soon. As at now, however, nothing much is happening inside,” the officer said.

At the Fairmont Mara Safari Club in the Olare Orok conservancy in Narok West sub-county, renovations of the main hotel are underway.

When it rains, it pours

Floods that swept the conservancy left the dining and reception areas and the resting lounges damaged.

“We are reconstructing the facility and we will soon open up but the dates are not yet confirmed, but you call my bosses in Nairobi for clarification,” said a manager by phone, who did not want to be named as he is not allowed to speak to the media.

The Nation reached out to the management of Fairmont Hotels and Resorts for comment but we did not get far.

“Unfortunately, no one can speak to you,” said a receptionist, who identified herself only as Ciku said.

“We are not yet back to operations. Currently, not all operations are back. Maybe until November.”

Meanwhile, former employees are eagerly waiting to hear from their employer.

When the hotel and its workers parted ways, those who had worked for more than five years received a gratuity. The rest were only paid for their accrued leave days.

Some, like Moses Konana, who lives in Aitong, Narok County, hopes to hear from his employer “soon”.

“This was my only source of income, working in the hotel as a waiter. I have been at home for over one year now, just grazing my livestock,” he said.

East Africa tour drivers and guides association official Felix Migoya said the closure of the Mara Safari Club was a blow to people whose livelihood directly depended on the influx of clients.

“Many of these people are either languishing in poverty waiting for some miracle to happen or they have changed to other ventures altogether,” he said.

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