Marriott Opens First Hotel in Rwanda as it Continues Investment and Growth in Africa
M arriott International officially opened the doors of Kigali Marriott Hotel in the capital city of Rwanda on Tuesday, October 4, 2016 — marking the first time in its history of almost 90 years in which Marriott has brought its signature brand to sub-Saharan Africa.
Marriott Opens First Hotel in Rwanda
The hotel has 254 rooms and is creating approximately 500 jobs; will offer world-class meeting spaces with modern amenities to cater to the demands of this rapidly growing market; and is one of the biggest and most luxurious properties in Rwanda — further enhancing the reputation of the city of Kigali as a hub for conferences and conventions.
“Highlighting the importance of hospitality’s role in Rwanda, the World Travel & Tourism Council says Rwanda’s travel and tourism industry generated 7.1 percent of the country’s GDP in 2015 and predicts it to rise at 4.1 percent annually through 2025”, according to this official press release. “Known as the Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda is becoming a popular destination for meetings and tourism.”
Not the First Time Marriott Has Expanded Further Into Africa
Back on Tuesday, August 5, 2014, Marriott International, Incorporated announced its continued growth in Africa with an investment of $200 million by opening 36 new hotel properties and hiring 10,000 new employees by 2020 — expanding its reach from nine countries to 16 countries; and the opening of the Kigali Marriott Hotel is a part of that initiative…
…but if you read the various reports from assorted media over the past few days, you might get the impression that this is the first time Marriott has expanded further into Africa — but that is simply not the case.
Marriott nearly doubled its number of hotel rooms in Africa with its acquisition of the brands and operations of Protea Hotels Group in November of 2013 to become the largest lodging company in Africa — expand its footprint on the African continent to 152 hotel properties at that time.
With the completion of its acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Marriott International now operates or franchises greater than 5,700 hotel and resort properties and 1.1 million rooms in greater than 110 countries worldwide; and the distribution of hotel and resort properties more than doubled in the Middle East and Africa combined.
More Information From the Press Release
The Kigali Marriott Hotel is weaving in an array of local goods throughout the property — including in the retail store and on menus in its restaurant. The hotel sources locally grown products such as beef, poultry and produce; and it incorporates more sustainable materials to ultimately help reduce the overall footprint of the hotel property.
Marriott has been working with community-based organizations to help staff the hotel property and supply it with goods produced locally — underscoring the goal of Rwanda to further build its core industries which include tourism and agriculture. As one example, the Kigali Marriott Hotel has partnered with the Akilah Institute for Women — which is an academy that enables young women from Rwanda and other East African countries to achieve economic independence with market-relevant education and training — to recruit and train Rwandan women for supervisory positions at its Kigali location. Marriott International has invited nearly 40 graduates of the institute to work and train in Marriott hotel and resort properties in Africa and the Middle East. After receiving on-the-job skills and leadership training, the first wave of graduates have returned to Rwanda to join the management team at the Kigali Marriott Hotel, where they will help welcome guests from the around the world.
Marriott International has also been working with Women for Women International and the Relationship Coffee Institute — both of which are supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, which is one of the largest investors in the region.
- The local Women for Women Opportunity Center is equipping Rwandan women with the skills needed to apply for entry-level hotel positions or to supply the Kigali Marriott Hotel with goods such as baskets, cheese and honey. The hotel has hired greater than 25 women from the training center.
- The Relationship Coffee Institute provides women with a new marketplace for locally sourced premium coffee — including the hotel. The Question Café of the Kigali Marriott Hotel serves the locally sourced coffee, which is grown by local smallholder farmers and served by graduates of this economic development training program.
I have not been to Rwanda; but its economic development seems similar to that of Botswana, which I have visited. Other than the Cresta chain of hotel properties — the company is based in southern Africa and I stayed at one of their hotel properties, which will be highlighted in an upcoming trip report — there was no other brand name of lodging company in the capital city of Gaborone. That will change next year when Hilton Worldwide opens the Hilton Garden Inn Gaborone, which will be its first hotel property in the country of Botswana.
A large corporation infiltrating an indigenous culture — even as it is modernizing — can be risky and cause concern; and Cuba is one of the countries which comes to mind. One fellow frequent traveler told me last week that he hopes to visit Cuba before “it becomes Americanized.” In my opinion from my brief visit, Botswana is clearly experiencing growth and improving its economy — but seemingly without forsaking its culture and traditional values. I hope that Rwanda experiences a similar experience.
As long as Marriott International helps to preserve the customs and traditions enjoyed by native Rwandans while helping to improve their economy, this can be beneficial to the corporation; the people who live and work in Rwanda; and the guests who patronize the new Kigali Marriott Hotel.
Source: Marriott International.