Stimulating Economic Growth through Tourism – Serena Kampala

KampalaSkyline

Founded by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, the Serena Hotels have become a household name for East Africa. The Tourism Promotion Services of the Aga Khan Foundation dates as far back as the early 1970’S when the first properties were set up in Kenya. In 1993, the Serena Hotels were able to go into Tanzania however 1994 -95 is when the building started. Properties were put up in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Manyara. Arusha was the next and more recently about 3 years ago to be exact – Dar ‘es Salaam. Debut into Zanzibar was in 1996-7. Kampala, Uganda was next in 2004, while Kigali, Rwanda was in 2007.

For the Fourth time in a row this year, Serena Hotel, Kampala has won the prestigious World Travel Award recognizing it as Uganda’s leading hotel.  The awards this year were held on 20th June in the Seychelles. It was because of this that I thought to go and check
out the hotel. What is it that makes it tick year after year? As a traveller – I also wanted to compare notes with the different African cities that I have visited of late.
Every room has got a balcony, but this view from the 6th floor is my favourite. The Terracotta exterior against the lush green makes for a really great view

Serene, striking décor and coolness are what you encounter when you walk through the Serena Kampala entrance. It is like that perfect woman who never has a hair out of place. You feel the warmth with the smiles of the people that greet you at the door, but
also the coolness of the strong air conditioning which in Kampala weather often times is so welcome.

Edwin Chemisto is currently the Deputy Manager of the Serena Kampala. He has been working with the Serena Hotels for over 10 years – Talking about being Faithful, loyal but also great at what you do.

“We have done well in Kampala both in the awards and in the feedback that we receive from our guests based on the experiences that they have had with us, the products that we give and the level of service that they get from our team.  A lot has been invested in the teams to ensure that they are up to international standards , constant annual appraisals are done  for the staff and also for the
teams that work internally and externally  to ensure that we live up to those expectations. We are a member of the leading hotels of the world, and as a result we are compared with the best hotels all over not only in Uganda, Kenya or Tanzania but all of Africa and Europe.” Edwin explains
The level of customer care is really high – all members of staff I encountered had smiles on their faces. Currently Kampala Serena employs about 500 people.  I got to tour the hotel with Edwin and Allen Ampaire who is in charge of Country Sales at the hotel. I noticed that very much thought was out into not just the architecture, but also the landscaping and the interior décor. “The pillars you see here are a sign of growth.  When you look closely at the base you will see plant shoots curved into the pillar. The color of the exterior is terracotta and the earthy brown represents the color of the soil in Uganda.” Every section of the hotel has got a story.

Who wouldn’t want to take a dip in this?

The Swimming pool area which is open to just members of the fitness club and guests is all about conservation of nature. The Maisha Spa speaks life. On entrance all phones are to be put into silence. The colors and space are rejuvenating; I am definitely making a date to experience the Plunge pool. The Restaurants all three in number have a story unique to each of them. I fell in love with the Explorer Restaurant whose theme is everything about
a Voyager. I would highly recommend eating from its Menu – and if you do, the tiramisu comes highly endorsed.

The Serena Hotels as part of the Aga Khan Development Foundation are a representation of Public – Private partnerships
between the government of Uganda and the Foundation. The foundation’s main aim is to stimulate economic growth through tourism. Uganda has been a top African destination since the 1960’s. In fact international tourism arrivals as of 2010 were at 945,000. Tourism’s direct contribution to GDP IN 2011 was estimated at about US $ 800 million. This represented 4.0% of the total GDP. And  we are yet to fully reach our potential as a country. There is need to up our game.  This is why the hotel administration is always looking to reinvent their products and keep them relevant.  If you have visited the Serena Kampala, it is visible that they have everything great going on for them. But even then – there is still more to get done. According to Edwin and Allen, there are plans for expansion that will start later this year. There will be construction of a Ballroom, Champagne Bar and about 40 new executive rooms. Currently there are only 152 rooms and sometimes the hotel is booked to full capacity. The franchise is also looking to expand into the National Parks.

The hotel has had some interesting read ‘famous’ visitors. Most of the African presidents that have visited Uganda have stayed here. It has also been graced  by the Queen of England, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Jacob Zuma, Uhuru Kenyatta and the Late Gadaffi – to mention but a few.

Part of the Presidential suite – Very Luxurious.

The future of hoteling means that hoteliers anticipate the future needs of their clients and as a result set out to meet them. And while no one has a crystal ball, there are trends taking place that can help us get a glimpse of what is to come. And I am very curious as to how and what Serena Hotel Kampala will look like 10 years down the road.

Whether it will continue to modernize or stick to the classic side – I think that it will be a great sight to behold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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