MD & CEO, SAROVA HOTELS & RESORTS
In the vibrant town of Nakuru, Jimi Kariuki’s story began. Born into a family that embodied both knowledge and ambition, his mother, a dedicated high school teacher, and his father, a charismatic petroleum salesman, laid the foundation for a remarkable journey ahead. Jimi, the second of two siblings, carried within him the spark of greatness waiting to ignite.
Fast forward to the present day, and we find Jimi at the helm of the majestic Kenyan hospitality empire – Sarova Hotels & Resorts. This homegrown gem, founded back in 1974, sprouted from the vision of three Kenyan families – the Kariuki family, the Vohra family, and the Mahendru family. Together, they sowed the seeds of hospitality excellence, birthing the first gem of Sarova, the iconic 94-bedroom Hotel Ambassadeur on Moi Avenue in Nairobi.
That was only the beginning of the journey. Today, Sarova has blossomed into an independent hospitality group, proudly overseeing eight magnificent establishments across Kenya. From the historic Sarova Stanley Hotel, exuding elegance since 1902, to the enchanting Sarova Panafric Hotel nestled amidst Nairobi’s bustle. At the Coast, there’s the Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort & Spa in Mombasa, where the waves dance in harmony with luxury.
In the western charm of Kisumu, Sarova Imperial Hotel reigns supreme, while in the heart of Nakuru, Sarova Woodlands Hotel & Spa awaits, a tranquil oasis amidst the lush landscapes. Embark on a safari at the Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge in Lake Nakuru National Park, or embrace the allure of the wild at Sarova Mara Game Camp, hidden away in the legendary Masai Mara Game Reserve. Last but surely not least, the captivating Sarova Shaba Game Lodge in the untamed Shaba National Reserve. Each retreat, a masterpiece of hospitality, curated to captivate and enchant.
It was destiny, some would say, that led Jimi to follow in his father’s footsteps and dive into the realm of hospitality. The year 1992 marked the turning point in his journey when he found his calling at Sarova Hotels. Starting as the Marketing Manager, he held firm and unwavering, ascending the ranks to become the Group Marketing Manager in 1995 and later assuming the role of Marketing and Sales Director in 2000. He held this position until 2018 when Sarova Hotels’ board of directors appointed Jimi to his current position of Group Managing Director (MD).
Behind the magic of Sarova lies a story intertwined with love and admiration – the brand’s name itself a tribute to the founding families. The initials of the three wives – SA for Swarna Vohra, RO for Rose Kariuki, and VA for Varsha Vohra – crafted into a harmonious melody, echoing through the halls of each Sarova retreat.
Jimi’s journey to the zenith of success was a tapestry of education, perseverance, and boundless curiosity. He started his early formal education at Loreto Convent Valley Road (LCVR), completing his primary school studies at the prestigious St Mary’s School. Subsequently, he attended Lenana School in Nairobi, and then Kagumo High School in Nyeri, imbibing knowledge like a sponge. Crossing oceans to fulfil his dreams, Jimi pursued undergraduate studies at Huron University in South Dakota, United States (US), acquiring a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree. But his thirst for knowledge knew no bounds, leading him to the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business in 2007, where he earned a coveted Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.
A man of wisdom and vision, Jimi’s journey expanded beyond the walls of Sarova. He adorned the membership of esteemed professional bodies, including the Kenya Institute of Management (KIM), the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce (KNCC), and the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA). A globe-trotting advocate for tourism, he embraced the spirit of friendship through SKAL, Kenya Chapter, a prestigious organisation of tourism leaders worldwide.
In 2004, Jimi earned a coveted seat on the Kenyatta International Convention Center (KICC) Board of Directors for a three-year term. Simultaneously, he played a vital role in the Kenya Tourism Board’s (KTB) Public Relations (PR) Committee and held a prominent position on the Kenya Tourism Federation’s (KTF) Executive Committee during 2003-2004. His influence extended further as he represented KTF on the KTB Board of Directors during the same period. In March 2016, he ascended to the esteemed position of non-executive Chairman of KTB, leading with grace until May 2022. Presently, he remains an esteemed Board member of the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers (KAHC), the industry’s umbrella body in Kenya.
Let us raise our glasses to Jimi Kariuki, the visionary leader, the embodiment of Kenyan hospitality, and the master conductor of Sarova’s symphony of luxury and warmth.