Scottish born but Kenyan based Alastair Addison’s passion for Kenya’s hospitality industry is admirable, if not overly impressive. I probably learnt more from him in one sitting than I would have in a full week lecture. He would fit well calling the shots at the Kenya tourism board but as I later found out, he is perfectly suited in making all the decisions as Hemingways Collection’s CEO…
First and foremost-How do you start your ordinary day? How does it end?
Well my ordinary day starts very early (with some good Kenyan tea with no milk or sugar) and ends very late. I have to make sure that all my people are in and organised for the day first thing in the morning. I then deal with any issues that arose the previous day as I catch up on the day’s emails, which may continue late into the night. It’s a 24/7 business!
Tell us a bit of what Hemingways is all about
Hemingways collections is a hotel division of the international hemingways holdings-a luxury travel company. We have three properties, at the Masaai Mara, Watamu and now the new hotel opening in Nairobi in early April. We officially set camp about 23/24 years ago in Watamu and we’ve now developed the company into an overall tourism group. For the Nairobi branch our aim is to create a very luxurious top end experience for our overseas clients and businessmen coming to the city. We’ll offer a service level that is not available in East Africa. And we think that Kenya will be very proud and popular. We’re spending money on something that we think is very unique and very different.
Why did Kenya seem like a potential for your start up?
I think Kenya is a very exciting country and I think we all understand how good Kenya is; we have the best people who I haven’t seen around the world and that’s a basic asset in setting up any business. Another thing is that most of us have been or grown up in Kenya and our manager himself has lived here for a while. It is where we want to be and base ourselves in. Nairobi is a very much big and important city- it’s all rounded quality makes it an ideal place.
What is your personal work ethic, and how does this affect the company culture?
I think everything is about teamwork; everyone is a customer of someone in a business. It’s about sitting down and communicating to your team about the core vision of the business and this way it reflects to the people we serve and interact with on a daily basis.
Where are your favourite places to eat out business lunches or leisure?
As you can see I quite have a healthy appetite (laughs). I enjoy food. And I will repeat that Nairobi is an international city and there are fantastic restaurants. Seven seafood and grill is my favourite. Every time I have been there I have thoroughly enjoyed.
Still on the same note, Are you a whiz in the kitchen or do you tend to order out when you have to fend for yourself?
I do cook, but I tend to not very much. I can sometimes be lazy and mostly prefer going out to grab a bite. But when I have time I do head out and buy the ingredients to cook and I enjoy it.
What inspires you most about what you do?
For me it’s about making people happy and that makes all the hard work and challenges worthwhile. Especially if we get encouraging comments and repeat clients because of the quality of service we offer them.
What future plans should we look forward to from Hemingways?
We’re definitely looking to expand; we’ve done a lot in the past two years with consolidating our hotel collections. Hemingways Nairobi is soon opening but we also want to expand beyond the boundaries of Kenya.