A decade ago, almost all the photos of big events from Kigali had something similar. The carpet on the floor was always that of Kigali Serena Hotel (formerly Intercontinental). Serena was the only decent place that big events graced by the President and other top officials, could be held.
One would just look at the signature brown carpet and know it was somewhere in the Kigali Serena. The hotel got a facelift and was expanded once the regional hotel chain took over.
Later on the government said a lot about the potential of tourism in the country that every rich fellow in town run to the nearest bank and picked a loan to set up a hotel.
The medium range hotels were quite many and in no time the bank was going after the loan defaulters who had not found the clients they had anticipated when they started the construction.
Business is never something easy and sometimes one has to hang in there and brave the tough times if they are to be around to enjoy the good times.
Fast forward last week and the media was reporting that indeed there was a scarcity of hotel rooms after almost all the big hotels had their rooms all booked. At first glance, I thought maybe this is just an exaggeration by the hotel owners but it soon hit home when in some of the WhatsApp groups I am in, some people were asking for contacts of anyone with a house big enough to accommodate some visitors since they had failed to find a hotel room and the AirBnB options were all gone too.
The sudden shortage of hotel rooms in Kigali can be attributed the hard work put in by the concerned bodies in promotion of the MICE kind of tourism that covers meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.
There is not a week that goes by without a big conference happening in this city. Delegates from all over the world are always flying in and flying out of Kigali. A whole industry now exists around these events and it appears the hotel owners who survived the tough spells are now smiling all the way to the bank.
News that the hotels are filling up should serve as an incentive for investors to put up some more and increase the number of rooms available in this city and the country in general. It is also good to know that options like AirBnB are also being embraced.
Those big empty houses in posh suburbs of the city or upcountry can also be occupied to give visitors a great experience and leave the owners with some francs lining their wallets.
The hotel owners can also now focus on providing a quality experience for the visitors. Yes you may fill up your hotel yet it is gathering a lot of negative reviews on platforms like Trip Advisor. In this era where digital is everything, you do not want the whole world to be told that your hotel is lousy. You have to do better to stay ahead of the game.
Hotels need to invest in having a clean and impressive digital presence. Get social medial managers to handle the social media accounts in a professional way for that is your channel to the online world.
Hotel owners also need to research on the latest trends and keep up with the pace of the industry as per global standards. Most of the people who come to your hotel have been to so many other hotels around the world. Let yours not be the worst they have been to.
Wifi is now almost more important than the menu; make sure you have a good connection so your guests can stay connected with the world online. I once met a hotel manager who told me that he had realised that it was wiser to invest in a better wifi connection than cable TV since no one is interested in watching CNN on TV instead of online.
There are lots of things that can enhance or kill one’s experience while in a hotel and managers should be aware of these if they want to stay at the top of their game.
For example, if your guest has to plug in their phone to charge from a socket that is far from their bed then you are already in trouble. I am talking about the kind of trouble that may see your visitor numbers going down thanks to bad reviews.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.