The Kigali Jazz Junction on Friday night was a hit. The performances by ‘short artists with tall talent’ were almost perfect that a critic could barely find a flaw to write a flowing lampoon. But the same can’t be said of the host, Serena hotel, whose service on the night proved that it is possible to go to a 5-star hotel and get one-star service
Folks, the mantra about a cashless economy could still be light years ahead of us. Cash, still firmly reigns hence a risk going out with only your MasterCard or visa debit cards in the wallet. Our table was shunned eight times for insisting on paying with cards
In the end, we gave up on begging to be served and contended with just the performances in front of us. Then, there was the air-conditioning issue; it appears the trick at Serena is, set the temperature at freezing point so that the drinks don’t have to be served with ice.
I saw several males ‘donate’ their jackets to women who were freezing next to them after calls to have the temperature moderated fell on deaf ears; if this sounds harsh on Serena, that is because I love the place and this, here, is feedback for them to consider before my next sojourn.
But what has Serena’s one-star service on Friday night got to do with the Makuza Peace Plaza? Good question.
As a student in Beijing, I noticed something about China’s tourism industry. Locals, in their millions, travel from various parts of rural China, daily, to visit attraction sites and buildings in the country’s major cities; these visits generate billions of dollars in domestic tourism, annually.
Kigali’s Makuza Peace Plaza is a piece of modernity anchored at the centre of Rwanda’s capitol hill; an ultra-modern building that should have come with a user’s manual to guide visitors with less exposure, on how to use the building’s ‘sophisticated’ facilities.
Unfortunately, Makuza Plaza has no guide; as a result, everyday, one sees folks comically struggling, most, genuinely confused on how to use the escalators (electronic staircase) to move up the building’s upper levels. My memory has over a dozen such scenes.
One day, while I had lunch at Camellia restaurant, a young couple showed up with intentions to go up to a phone store on the second floor; the man, determined to appear in-charge, stepped forward, ready to jump on the platform, his right hand holding his wife’s left. “We go…”
As the man prepared to step on the platform, the wife violently pulled back, visibly terrified. The man, afraid of causing a scene tried to beg the wife that it was okay but she wouldn’t have any of it…they argued, paced back and forth but the woman stood her ground. They had to leave.
In another incident, a man walked in with what appeared to be his family. The moment he noticed the escalators, he knew he was in trouble. He tried one leg on the platform and immediately pulled back after the system started moving after sensing his foot. In the end, the entire family of five held hands and said a brief prayer before jumping on the stairs.
Often times, kids from the affluent Ecole Belge, out for lunch, stand aside and watch in absolute amusement as adults are baffled by technology.
Thank God they missed an incident where a woman in her mid-twenties, rather than take the ascending stairs to move up, instead went for the one descending; with her hands tightly holding on to the rails, she wondered why the platform was not moving upwards as she wanted.
A young man in his early twenties showed up, last Friday, with a young good looking girl; as soon as they got near the escalator, he told the lady to stand aside and watch; he then jumped on the stairs, with the swag of a city boy, jumped on the platform and rose, majestically.
The girl, with her palms covering her mouth in delight, watched as her young man disembarked the stairs on the first level before jumping on the descending platform to get back where the girlfriend was standing.
Impressed by the boys ‘expertise’ the two hugged in an affectionate manner, the young man, wearing a smile of satisfaction on his face, the girl, looking very secure in the embrace. They then took a selfie, with the escalator in the background and left, leaving the Ecole Belge kids smiling. These are tales of the Makuza Peace Plaza.
Yet as owners of the plaza struggle to find tenants to fill the prime spaces, they could get innovative and introduce a small tourism enterprise to tap into the daily traffic of locals seeking to conquer the Makuza escalator, take the lift to the top and enjoy a clear view of Kigali.
In the meantime, put a guide on the building; help guide visitors around to avert potential accidents while the revenue streams from the local tourism scheme can help contribute to the building’s basic maintenance cost.