Hotels in stiff competition to dominate Kigali skyline

This month on November 5, a new luxury hotel was blessed and will soon be unveiled to join the increasingly expanding stable of luxury hotels competing to dominate the Kigali skyline.

What was that “blessed” about, you may ask. Well, it was about sprinkling the hotel with holy water because it belongs to the Catholic Church.

True, the church has been known to have accommodation facilities for its travelling faithful and any other so-desirous sojourners. But luxury, that was always unknown to them. If anything, the facilities were infamous for their unfailingly scanty provisions to answer to being easy on the pocket, whether the being easy was called for or not.

So, that now Saint Famille Hotel is here to compete with the best is something to applaud.

Of course, when after opening it’s rated, it cannot hope to be in the league of elite 5-star hotels like Kigali Marriot Hotel, Kigali Serena Hotel or Radisson Blu Hotel and Convention Centre.

However, if it matches its architectural beauty and spacious compound with its facilities and service, there is no reason it shouldn’t stand shoulder to shoulder with the constellation of 4-star hotels.

Then it’ll join the ranks of the likes of Hôtel des Mille Collines, Umubano Hotel, Hotel Chez Lando, all of which are part of a line-up of over twenty 4-star hotels.

On top of the afore-said hotels, the others that are hot on the heels of the 4-star hotels and may soon be on equal footing are legion. Then below them follows a long column of uncountable others that may fall in the categories of lesser-star hotels.

Remember, we have not mentioned those upcountry. Some may be dingy affairs but there are also exclusive resorts and lodges meant to cater for the unique tastes of money-moguls come to sample tourist attractions of this country. They mostly nestle around national game parks.

Coming back to the Catholic Church, let’s pause again a while and think back to – not twenty-five years ago when this country made her appearance out of hell, no.

Rather, to about sixteen years ago after Rwanda had laid the foundations of self-reconfiguration and reconstruction into a totally different country. An envisioned country that would be a far cry from the beastly snake-hole of yesteryears.

Before 2003, do you recall ever seeing, or hearing about, any place owned by this church, offering accommodation at a cost?

I doubt you did. But the truth is that exactly that place that today is hosting Sainte Famille Hotel was the same place – not the exact spot – that played host to something everybody called a “homeh”, which I got to know as only that because it bore no name to identify it.

Whether it was a “home”, your guess is as good as mine. What I know is that it looked like a school dormitory, complete with individuals carrying their items of toiletry out of their rooms to go fulfil their hygienic conveniences in outer rooms.

Unfortunately, those days these “homehs” were practically the only ‘school dormitories’ where guests could pay and get accommodation in almost all the towns of this country.

The “homehs” belonged to many religious and non-religious organisations, but the Catholic Church commanded the miserly market.

Still, knowing the lethargic pace at which the Catholic Church moves, it’s a pleasant surprise that it should be the first to show the way to modern accommodation, following in the footsteps of government. It’s about time, too, because, to this date, these “homehs” are the exact same offerings that the organisations are fronting for paying travellers. They may have been spruced up to look clean, all right, but it’s little thanks because they remain the same.

All of which goes to show you how this government can move mountains, simply by example. Through its deeds, it has challenged particularly the churches to chuck away their “homehs”.

That, however, assumes that Saint Famille Hotel is only the beginning. The beginning of a chain of “homehs” giving way for modern hotels that match the trend the government kicked off in 2003, when it launched what you see today as Kigali Serena Hotel.

Which is laughable today, even if it was a fact then.

Before 2003, to host a visiting head of state, for instance, government relied on the mercy of individual owners of large residences. The individuals were usually rich ‘remainees’ and returnees (from exile) who had put their wealth to swift use by constructing opulent homes.

Many, however, needed pecuniary inducement before they could budge, if government was lucky enough to see them budge for any inducement at all!

That’s how the government went about shaking down its pockets to raise funds and haul itself out of this shame of mercy-dependence. With none-too-easy effort, it had put up what stands today as proud Kigali Serena Hotel.

In quick succession, north-western lakeside Kivu Serena Hotel was up.

These were the seeds that sprouted into an investor-stampede to be boss of today’s burgeoning hotel industry. And competition for investors to see that their hotel shines best on the face of the Kigali skyline.

The views expressed in this article are of the authors.