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Construction of Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya nears completion

Construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Nairobi to Naivasha has entered the final stages.

According to China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) spokesperson Steve Zhao, 80% of the project has been completed including roadbeds, culverts, bridges and station buildings, despite compensation stalemate along the Ngong section delaying the railway completion by the proposed June 2019 deadline. Zhao is however optimistic that the compensation deadlock would be resolved so that the project could be finished before the year comes to an end.

“Before work was stopped in July 2018, the anticipated completion day was June 2019 and with the remaining section of work not being attended to, the launch date may be delayed,” said Zhao.

Standard Gauge Railway

The railway project is set to change positively the face of Nakuru County and spur the economies of Nakuru and Naivasha towns which for years been neglected in terms of infrastructure. This is already being witnessed with increase in value of land contractors have assisted in building some classes, and even rehabilitating rural roads.

“Naivasha will be few minutes train ride from Nairobi and this will ensure a huge stream of domestic and foreign tourists flock to enjoy all that Naivasha has to offer. horticulture farmers would also have quicker and cheaper transport for their produce via the Internal Container Depot to JKIA. This means fresh produce gets to local and international markets faster thus enabling these businesses to grow faster and employ more people,” said Kamau Njuguna, a Director at the East Africa Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

According to the current routing plan, the railway will follow the escarpment to Mai Mahiu, cross road B33, pass south of Mount Longonot and end in Naivasha. There will be another phase of 262 kilometres from Naivasha to Kisumu through Narok, Bomet and Sondu.

Additionally the government plans to develop an industrial parks along the SGR route. The railway line will help the companies move their heavy equipment quickly and affordably from the Mombasa port to their sites within days instead of weeks it currently takes.

Source: Constructionreview

Top 5 Valentine’s Day Getaways in America

Valentine’s Day is one of the sweetest holidays of the year…both figuratively and literally It’s the second-biggest candy holiday of the year, second only to Easter. And candy sales for Valentine’s Day are approaching $3 billion. America loves this holiday. And Americans love to have fun on this day.  To treat themselves to special foods and flowers and fragrances and feasts. It’s a day – or, at least an evening – that we can all take a deep breath, decompress, and honor a beautiful tradition. And here are five great places to do it…

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#5 – ROANOKE/VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE – From the beautifully-preserved historic buildings in downtown Roanoke – now filled with interesting restaurants and galleries – to the surrounding ethereal beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this region is special on Valentine’s  Day. The views of city and mountains here are memorable, making for a beautiful V-Day to start with. And it only gets better. The region actually offers then great places to propose (and what better time to do it than Valentine’s Day?), among them the Mill Mountain Star, an 85′-tall man-made star of neon tubing that lights up at night, or McAfee Knob, a ledge which juts out over some of the most famous scenery in America. At the base of Mill Mountain is The River and Rail, one of Roanoke’s best-loved restaurants…with good reason. Or you might enjoy a feast (and a room!) at the Hotel Roanoke, an historic local institution with Old South ambience and elegant dining. This region is one of the burgeoning wine centers in America, as well, and a drive down the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway will lead you and your sweetheart to Chateau Morrisette Winery, where the cuisine is just as wonderful as the wines. Also, Big Lick Brewery is holding a Big Lick Valentine’s Beer Dinner, putting a new twist on an old holiday. For another new twist,  you can celebrate at a production of “My Fatal Valentine – Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre,” at Mountain View Center. But, really, anywhere you celebrate Valentine’s Day in Roanoke/Virginia’s Blue Ridge, you’ll be celebrating it amongst beautiful, dream-like scenery.

#4 – LATIGO RANCH, KREMMLING, COLORADO – Situated in the Arapaho National Forest, in the Colorado Rockies, Latigo Ranch offers a different type of Valentine’s Day experience. This is the real McCoy – an authentic, family-owned ranch with 75-mile views reaching out to the Continental Divide, which has been called one of the Top 50 ranches in the world. Here, they celebrate Valentine’s Day Western-style! For example, while the surroundings are Western, the cuisine is gourmet. And on Valentine’s night, you might be served grass-fed ribeye filet, Colorado lamb chops, or Bison Flank Steak Roulade, each surrounded by gourmet sauces and sides and garnishes. Before dinner you may want  to grab a glass of fine wine from the lodge, and watch a spectacular Rocky Mountain sunset with your Valentine from the deck, with frosty views of some of the most beautiful country in North America. Or, you might decide to celebrate the day inside your cabin, with a roaring fire in the hearth and a great bottle of wine. At Latigo Ranch, you can choose an active Valentine’s Day, too, with cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on over 50 miles of sparkling virgin snow trails. So…grab your favorite cowboy or cowgirl and git along, Lil’ Doggie, to Latigo Ranch!

#3 – NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – While Nashville is, of course, the country-music capital of the world, the city has a definite romantic side to it, as well (along with definite culinary, cultural, and historic sides!). A walk down Broadway, especially on a weekend night, is like no other in America; the street is lined with colorful Country honky-tonks, with great music and joyful laughter coming out of every doorway. And Broadway – all of Nashville, in fact – lights up with a special glow on Valentine’s Day. In fact, DatingAdvice.com named Nashville the most romantic city in America. Several of the city’s top hotels are offering romantic packages for Valentine’s weekend, among them the “Be My Valentine” package at Thompson Nashville and “In Love In Nashville” at iconic Union Station, once an historic train terminal and now one of the city’s great hotels. The highly-regarded Adele’s Nashville Restaurant will be among those offering romantic packages for the weekend. You might check out The Bluebird Café’s “An Evening of Romance,” and you should probably also consider a romantic “Valentine’s Evening Cruise” on the General Jackson Showboat. Special events include all types of cooking classes; “Valentine’s Chocolate and Craft Beer” at the  Tennessee Brew Works; “Valentine’s Wine On the  Rails” at the Tennessee Central Railway Museum; and “Cupid’s Crawl,” a Valentine’s Day bar crawl. And, of course, that wonderful music coming from the live bands all along Broadway.

#2 – SUN VALLEY RESORT, SUN VALLEY, IDAHO – When Sun Valley Resort opened its doors in 1936, it became the first destination-resort in America. And within a year or two of that opening, it was hosting Hollywood celebrities like Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Ingrid Bergman, Claudette Colbert, Tyrone Power, Jane Russell, Van Johnson, Ray Milland, industrial titans such as Henry Ford, and kings, queens, prime ministers and Presidents. This place oozes romance, from its world-class facilities and its magnificent mountain surroundings…especially in winter, when the snow gives the town of Sun Valley a warm, intimate glow. You can start off your Valentine’s weekend here with a couples massage in the luxurious spa, with a $50 voucher to help you out. For Valentine’s Day, the resort is offering specials such as the Simply Suite Experience, with a couples massage, glasses of champagne and a sweet treat; or the Couples Suite Retreat Experience, including massages, lunch, and a gift to take back home. Valentine’s weekend will also feature a special five-course dinner and complementary glass of wine at the Roundhouse, at a breathtaking 7,700 feet with views you’ll never forget. Also, Gretchen’s Restaurant will be offering V-Day specials such as Crab Tagliatelle and Chocolate Fondue. And, for the perfect romantic touch, the Opera House will be having a special showing of “Love Actually” on the big day.

#1 – ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO –Albuquerque’s sort of romantic to begin with, with unique terrain, textures and colors you can’t find anywhere else in America. The downtown is a colorful mix of Western and beautifully-preserved Art Deco buildings. There are beautiful – and very unique – hotels such as Andaluz, a local landmark built by Conrad Hilton in 1939, with a lobby and restaurant and private entertainment rooms downstairs that seem more like you’re in Morocco than in New Mexico, and a whimsical mixture of Deco and Retro in the guest rooms upstairs. There’s another hotel, however, that emphasizes that you’re in New Mexico. That would be Nativo Lodge, perhaps America’s most unusual hotel, with Native American artwork displayed in brilliant colors on the walls – not hanging from the walls, but actually painted on the walls! – and ceilings. And, of course, an Albuquerque sunset is magical, with a burnt-orange ball sinking into a horizon behind purple-tinted mountains. Albuquerque being the hot-air balloon capital of the world, it’s appropriate to have a Valentine’s Day fest called the “2019 Friends & Lovers Balloon Rally.” Pueblo Harvest Restaurant celebrates Valentine’s Day with unique dishes with ingredients used by Native-Americans before European contact, and pairs them with special wines in its “Pre-Contact Valentine Wine Pairing Dinner.” Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, by the Rio Grande River, has a special Valentine’s Day package that includes dinner and special wine pairings at the excellent farm-to-table Campo Restaurant, turn-down treats from the Campo bakery, and your choice of couples yoga or a tour of the wonderful farm on the premises. At an intimate venue called Tablao Flamenco, you can pair authentic Spanish cuisine with the color and the passion of the flamenco dancers and musicians for a romantic Valentine’s Day, Spanish-style. And if you’re in the mood for a romantic stroll with your partner, take it in the Nob Hill neighborhood, filled with funky, colorful shops and very cool eateries such as Zacatecas, a colorful swirl of Mexican art and folklore, with amazing specialty drinks and some of the best-tasting Mexican food you’ll ever experience.

Source: World property journal

Demand for serviced apartments hits record high in Nairobi

Nairobi’s serviced apartments recorded improved performance with an average yield of 7.4 per cent in 2018, compared to 5.3 per cent recorded in 2017.

According to the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Serviced Apartments Report, this growth was driven by increased demand, which triggered an increase in charge rates, as well as increased occupancy rates with an average of 80 per cent in 2018, compared to 72 per cent in 2017.

The improved performance is attributed to the stable political environment and improved security, making Nairobi an ideal destination for both business and holiday travellers.

Kilimani area was the best performing node, recording high occupancy rate of 86 per cent and rental yields of 10.9 per cent. The node’s proximity to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), easy access to business zones such as Westlands and Upperhill, and a good transport network, thus ease of accessibility were noted as markers for this performance.

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Developments in the Thika Road node (Muthaiga North, Mirema and Garden Estate) recorded the lowest rental yield of 4.4 per cent, attributed to its unpopularity, given the distance from main commercial zones, the lack of modern and quality serviced apartments, in addition to not being within the UN Blue Zone, thus not attractive to expatriates due to security concerns.

Serviced apartments are becoming popular for use by holiday guests who are travelling as families and for business travellers looking for mid to long-term accommodation.

According to the report, the demand has been supported by benefits that come with serviced apartments such as larger spaces compared to hotel rooms. For instance, in Nairobi, while the standard hotel room size is 30-50 square meters (SQM), while the average size of serviced apartments is 75 SQM for 1-bedroom units, 110 SQM for 2-bedroom units, and 140 SQM for 3-bedroom units.

They are considered more affordable given their relatively lower charges compared to hotels. For example, a standard 3-star hotel in Nairobi charges on average Sh14,000 per night for a suite, while a studio serviced apartments charges on average Sh8,000 per night and a 1-bedroom apartment charges on average Sh11,000 per night. Unlike a hotel, a serviced apartment can easily accommodate a family, in addition to allowing one to self-cater, hence creating the home away from home experience that is sought after by many long-term travellers. The other plus is that they are located within or in proximity to other residential developments, hence guests are able to integrate with the community.

Speaking about the supply of serviced apartments, Beatrice Mwangi, Assistant Research Analyst at Cytonn noted that, “There has been a growing supply of serviced apartments with approximately 1,189 additional units expected into the market by 2020, mainly in Westlands and Kilimani. The investment in the theme is fuelled by the greater demand with firms aiming to optimise their travel budgets.

“Apparently more firms are opting to book serviced apartments, for their employees as they are less expensive in the end, with lower operating expenses as compared to hotels, as they require less number of staff and lower ancillary costs for amenities and foodstuffs, and are thus cheaper to run compared to hotels,” she said.

“They can easily be converted to normal apartments, in the case where the former is not performing well, and, the relatively longer tenancy compared to hotels as the clientele for serviced apartments are mainly on long-term stays as compared to those who prefer hotel rooms, and thus the guarantee of a more stable income.’’

According to the report, in the Nairobi Metropolitan Area, the best investment opportunity for serviced apartments lies in Kilimani and Westlands, which are the best performing areas with average rental yields of above 10 per cent.

This is attributed to the good transport network in these areas making them easily accessible, with proximity to business nodes such as Upperhill, good security given that the areas are mapped as UN blue zone areas, and availability of key amenities such as Yaya Centre, The Westgate Mall and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

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