NEW KIGALI RADISSON BLU BECOMES THE SECOND OF INITIALLY FIVE CR BRANDED HOTELS IN EAST AFRICA
(Posted 02nd October 2016)
Three Radisson Blu’s and two Park Inn’s by Radisson seems to be the intermediate goal for Carlson Rezidor in East Africa, a group only hospitality experts would have heard of a few years ago in the Eastern African region.
Today though are two of the top CR brands already operating, the Radisson Blu Nairobi which opened just under a year ago and the more recently inaugurated Radisson Blu Kigali which also manages the adjoining Kigali Convention Centre. The arrival of the latter has set the stage in Kigali for some fierce market share battle in the hospitality industry as not long after the opening of CR’s second hotel in East Africa Marriott Hotels also finally opened their doors to the public just a few months after the Radisson Blu after a delay of several years.
Two years ago at a hotel investment conference in Addis Ababa pen was put to paper by a group of Ugandan entrepreneurs to sign up Radisson to manage a new Kampala development and the arrival on the scene in 2017 of two Park Inn’s by Radisson in Nairobi and notably Kigali again, shows how Carlson Rezidor’s brand names are making waves in the market.
Further expansion in the wider region is clearly on the cards though executives are coy over putting out the names of additional locations, not until they are ready probably to blow their trumpet in a major marketing blitz when pre-launching in a new city.
A recent visit to Kigali allowed to take a closer look at the new national convention centre and hotel which at first look turned out to be a Radisson Blu of many colours but with few of the classic blue or aquamarine hues seen in Nairobi.
This may be a new experience for brand loyalists but perhaps a welcome one as the bright colours along the corridors, also reflected in the carpets, certainly pleased my eyes.
The lobby provides for an impressive entry, opening up to the ceiling of the five floor hotel, with the top floor set aside for the five suites the hotel can offer its VVIP clients. Keycard access in the elevators makes sure that ‘wandering‘ is restricted to the floor one’s room is located, certainly a boost for hotel security and making guests feel safe.
All other floors have more or less identical room shapes and sizes though the second floor is set aside for clients with a Carlson Rezidor Club Membership which allows for access across the footbridge into the Conference Centre where a dedicate club lounge welcomes such guests.
From a light breakfast over lunch snacks to cold and warm canapes in the evening, plus free drinks, does the lounge provide an oasis of peace and tranquility, and in a departure from the lounge layout in Nairobi also an outdoor area, which on warm days invites to enjoy Kigali’s fresh air.
The spacious feeling of the atrium lobby extends throughout the ground floor, the bar and adjoining lounge for guests and their visitors and is then also found in the main restaurant where breakfast, lunch and by the look of it a superb buffet dinner are served, the latter including Sushi and other culinary delights.
An Italian restaurant has just opened on the conference centre side of the hotel, only a few steps from the hotel lobby which provides alternate fare for hotel guests and of course Kigali’s socialites who can now choose to be seen at several five star locations across the city.
(A typical guest room at the Kigali Radisson Blu, lacking nothing in comfort)
The conference centre, linked with the hotel through ground floor access as well as a bridge on the second floor, gives the Radisson Blu a clear advantage in the market as it is the only hotel in Kigali with an amphitheatre central meeting hall under the tall dome of the facility, visible from miles away and at night illuminated with a play of colours.
State of the art meeting rooms, seating up to 2.500 guests at a go but through room divider technology also able to capture smaller audiences, are supplemented by a complete kitchen setup, not just to warm and plate pre-prepared food but actually cook it from scratch, saving the staff the wheeling around of food trolleys seen elsewhere. Breakout rooms and secretarial / logistics spaces / support offices are available for conference guests, something MICE organizers will no doubt appreciate, as they will the extensive outdoor spaces which can be used for cocktails or product launches under the sunny skies of Kigali.
With some 292 rooms and suites is the Kigali Radisson Blu not a small hotel but given the location, not too far from the airport and the state of the art facilities, will this property no doubt command its own following very soon.
This new hotel, combined with the present expansion of the national airline RwandAir, has given Rwanda’s ambition to become one of Africa’s foremost MICE destinations a boost and a series of very large meetings, of both the political and economic kind, has since the opening of the Radisson Blu in June this year already chosen the hotel and conference centre as its venue.
General Manager Denis Dernault and his team, going by their own words, still have some way to go to sort out post opening nitty gritties but truth told, unless one makes it a point to snoop around will guests see very little of what is going on in the service areas of the facility.
For hotel guests, new and repeaters, it is simply a delightful experience to check into a brand new hotel where everything works, where the food meets high expectations, though my Egg Benedict did not match those of the sister hotel in Nairobi as yet and where they can experience first hand how far Rwanda has come as a country, as a MICE and tourism destination and a place to trade and do business.