While preparations are underway to privatise Ethiopia's first international hotel franchise, the management of Hilton Addis Ababa has refurbished the hotel.
Expected to be privatised in a year's time, the refurbishment began a year ago and cost 145 million Br. The redesign project touched the guest rooms and suites, Kaffa Restaurant, the executive lounge, the ballroom and both the coffee ceremony and public areas.
"I am pleased to have refurbished this historic hotel," said Claus Steiner, general manager of Hilton Addis Ababa. "We look forward to welcoming guests who will experience Ethiopian culture in contemporary surroundings."
The new designs were undertaken by Source Interior Brand Architecture, a 17-year-old South African architectural firm specialising in hospitality, leisure, workplace, civic and retail design. The designs were based on the original architecture and existing patterns.
"Hilton was very much in need of renovation," said Neway Birhanu, managing director of Calibra Hospitality Management & Consultancy, who used to work with Hilton Addis Ababa for more than a decade.
The hotel had aged and mismatched furniture, worn carpets and dripping ceilings that gave the impression of being old and tired, according to the World Tourism Organization's assessment of the hotel a few years back. It was also downgraded to three stars from five by the Ministry of Culture & Tourism.
"Right now, the hotel needs more than a refurbishment," says Neway. "Considering its historical significance, the prime location it is situated in and the competitive hotel industry, it needs to be renovated."
Lying on nearly 60,000Sqm of land, Hilton Addis Ababa has a 12-storey main building, alongside a Garden Wing extension built in 1987, which has close to 400 rooms. Having opened its doors in 1969, the hotel was on a 50-year management contract, with options to renew every 10 years with Hilton Worldwide. Under its flagship brand, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Worldwide manages 575 hotels.
Hilton Worldwide, which had a 20pc share of the revenues of the hotel, was restricted from managing other properties in the country until 2015. There are five Hilton brands currently in the pipeline in Meqelle, Hawassa, Bahir Dar and two others in Addis Abeba. These are part of the over 20 international branded hotels being built in different parts of Ethiopia with Hyatt Regency being the latest entrant.
The only international hotel brand the government has a stake in, Hilton Addis Ababa has been in the process of privatisation since 2017. Its estimated value is 4.5 billion to five billion Birr, according to Industrial Project Services (IPS), a state-owned consultancy. International companies, including Dubai-based Albwardy Investment group, have shown interest in the hotel.
Neway suggests that building renovations should be supported by upgrading staff too.
"Hilton is a hotel that has one of the most experienced staff in the city," said Neway. "By capitalising on its human power, it can go a long way."
Read the original article on Addis Fortune.
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