Kampala — A week after the Pearl of Africa Hotel Kampala officially opened its doors with fireworks, President Yoweri Museveni launched the 5-star facility at a colourful ceremony on Tuesday night.
Museveni thanked the Aya Brothers for the investment that will create jobs for Ugandans and boost the tourism sector, and promised to defend investors against bribe-taking government officials who frustrate their work.
"This hotel is going to create thousands of jobs and has over 300 rooms, thus improving our tourism sector," Museveni said at the launch, before castigating officials who frustrate the work of investors.
"I thank the Aya brothers for always reporting those who want bribes from them, that's very good," he said.
Herbert Kabafunzaki, a junior minister in charge of labour and industrial relations, is in court in a case in which he is alleged to have sought a bribe from Mohammed Hamid, the chairman of the AYA Investment Group.
History of the Pearl of Africa Hotel
The property is located on top of Nakasero Hill, one of the original seven hills upon which Kampala was built and it offers a 360 degree view of Kampala's landscape.
In addition to having close to 300 rooms, the Pearl of Africa Hotel Kampala will among other also feature a 740 square metre ballroom, nine meeting rooms, two boardrooms, a business centre, three food and beverage outlets, gym and wellness facilities.
The Pearl of Africa Hotel Kampala has been under construction for close to ten years. The construction of the 23-storey hotel began in 2006 and was supposed to have operated under the Hilton brand.
The hotel recently partnered instead with South African based Sovereign Hotels, which signed a contract to manage it.
The hotel had earlier been penciled in to be one of the new up-market establishments to accommodate guests during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kampala in November 2007.
However, the Aya Brothers met several challenges and could not finish it in time for the meeting owing to funding and administrative issues.
In an interview earlier in the year, Hamid said the investment has indeed struggled with logistical and tax disputes with the Uganda Revenue Authority over the last ten years but quickly added that, "That is what it means to build a five star hotel in a landlocked country like Uganda."
"But that is normal; even by the standards of developed European countries, building five-star hotels takes roughly about that time," he told The Independent in the interview.
Jeanne Byamugisha, the executive director of the Uganda Hotel Owners Association (UHOA) told The Independent that the hospitality fraternity in Uganda is very excited to have this project finally open its doors to both local and international guests.
"Not only does it add to the beauty of the Kampala skyline but it has created employment, market for agricultural produce as well as added onto the number of hotel rooms in Kampala positioning us better to tap into the MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing and Exhibitions] market."
According to the 2016 W Hospitality Group survey on hotel chains development activity in Africa, Kampala has over 1,200 hotel rooms currently in its pipeline with some already signed deals including brands such as Radisson Blu, Hilton Garden Inn and InterContinental. The report said these are scheduled to open between 2017 and 2020.