6 February 2017

Uganda: Aya Hotel - Rezidor Hotel Chain Replaces Hilton

Brussels-based hotel chain, Rezidor Hotel Group has taken over management of the Aya Brothers-owned Pearl of Africa Hotel Kampala.

The Group that manages hundreds of luxury hotels around the world under the Quorvus Collection brand, now joins other internationally and regionally operated brands in the city such as City Blue, Protea, Sheraton and Serena.

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.

"We are delighted to add our second Quorvus Collection hotel in Africa and thankful to our partners AYA Investment Group for bringing the Pearl of Africa to life with Rezidor," said Elie Younes, the executive vice president who doubles as the chief development officer of the Rezidor Hotel Group.

"Uganda is an important hub in Eastern Africa. Its central location in the region, rich natural resources and improved infrastructure will create further economic opportunities," he said in a statement.

"We look forward to a successful journey with our partners and to make our social contributions by creating local employment opportunities and establishing our hotel as the social anchor of Kampala."

The hotel chain pins its growth on tourism, conferences for growth

Mohammed Hamid, the chairman of the AYA Investment Group confirmed to The Independent on Jan.30 about the takeover, saying his group is "extremely pleased to partner with The Rezidor Hotel Group." He said the deal was signed last month and the hotel is expected to open at the beginning of March.

"Rezidor has already proven their capacity to successfully operate international hotel brands across Africa and has a very good understanding of the continent's opportunities and challenges in the travel and tourism industry," he said.

"We are keen on benefitting from Rezidor's knowledge and showcasing an outstanding luxury hotel experience in Kampala."

Latest data from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities shows that both tourist arrivals and earnings all grew by merely 2.9% in 2015 to 1.303million and $1.35billion, respectively, compared with the previous year.

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 be operated under the Hilton brand.

It had 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.

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.

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.

Protea Hotel, which runs two properties in Uganda, one in Kampala and another in Entebbe, is widening its presence in Uganda.

Two more properties- Protea Hotel Naguru Skyz and the Protea Hotel Pinnacle, all situated in Kampala's affluent suburb of Naguru and boasting of 141 and 105 rooms respectively are under construction, with opening set as early as next year.

Byamugisha confirmed to The Independent that construction of these hotels is currently ongoing. She said the development of such big brand name hotels in Uganda is a very big boost of confidence in the country.

"This confirms that we are a secure country that is open for international business. This is because a lot of research is done in terms of security, return on investment, emerging markets before such big brands decide to take up residence in a foreign country."

Byamugisha said the emergence of big hotels shows that the hospitality industry in Uganda is growing and this is good news to Uganda's youths.

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.

Rezidor Hotel Group, believed to be one of the fastest growing hotel companies in the world, and a member of the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group features a portfolio of approximately 475 hotels in operation or under development with about 104,000 rooms in more than 80 countries.

Rezidor operates the core brands Radisson Blu and Park Inn by Radisson in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).



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