Global hotel chain Hilton is close to concluding a management agreement with Ubumwe Grand Hotel after a dispute between the developers and Zinc Hotels, saw the property trade under a traditional name.
Hilton will operate the hotel under its Doubletree brand. This will enable it to gain a foothold to compete against other global hotel brands such as Rezidor’s Radisson Blu and Park Inn and The Marriott, among others.
“Doubletree, which is one of the Hilton brands, is in advanced stages of taking over Ubumwe, but the deal is yet to be signed but it is close,” said a source close to the deal who asked for anonymity.
The $40 million property initially opened its doors as Zinc hotel and was jointly owned by CG Corp Global — a company belonging to Nepalese billionaire Binod Chaudhary — the Mukwano Group under Acacia Properties and Robert Bapfakurera — the only local partner.
Acacia Properties cancelled the management agreement it had with CG Corp’s Zinc Hotels. It is understood that this matter is still under arbitration.
Local stockholder Robert Bapfakurera, declined to comment until the deal is finalised.
“At this moment the hotel is still Ubumwe Grand Hotel, when the time comes and the company deems it a good time to share, we shall let you know,” he said.
A number of global hotel brands, like movenpick from Switzerland, Ascot Group, Protea and City Lodge are reportedly keen on venturing into the Rwandan market but have so far failed to find properties to manage.
The government said there is a need for more international hotel brands in the country as they attract more visitors.
Industry analysts say that although Ubumwe Grand Hotel has done a good job of building its profile, it will benefit from the international distribution channels and brand recognition that Hilton brings.
Meanwhile,One & Only Resorts, a global hospitality brand that mainly invests in beach resorts, residences and luxury hotels, has added Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest Lodge and Gorilla’s Nest to its portfolio.
The two properties, one located in the Nyungwe Forest and the other in the Volcanoes National Park in Kinigi, Northern Province have been rebranded as One & Only Nyungwe House and One & Only Gorilla’s Nest.
One & Only Nyungwe House, which was previously managed by Dubai World, opens its doors in July while the Gorilla’s Nest will open in 2018.
I am thrilled we are able to continue to evolve the One & Only experience, providing once-in-a-lifetime experiences for our guests, said Philippe Zuber, president and chief operating officer of One & Only Resorts.
Rwanda becomes the third African market for One & Only Resorts after South Africa and Mauritius where the global hotel brand runs beach resorts. It has other properties around the world.
The global hotel brand plans to capitalise on nature and adventure tourism with One & Only Nyungwe House and One & Only Gorilla’s Nest.
Frank Mustaff, the country director of Horwath HTL, a hospitality consulting group believes these new One & Only resorts could bring in new visitors and create tourism opportunities for the country.
They will market these new properties and raise awareness about Rwanda with their global clients, Mr Mustaff said.
The two properties will capitalise on the conservation activities in the two locations with guests to One & Only Nyungwe House getting to track primates and trekking the Kamiranzovu swamp among other experiences.
The property is located in Gisakura, a tea plantation at the edge of Nyungwe National park.
One & Only Gorilla’s Nest will offer the gorilla tracking experience and views of local hills in Northern Province and slopes of Volcanoes National Park among others.
Rwanda is an incredible destination that offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We look forward to enabling our guests to explore the country and its culture and provide them with the ultimate connection to nature, a statement from the group said.
The Nyungwe National Park received 11,000 visitors in 2016, up from 9,000 the previous year.
According to Mr Mustaff, mountain gorilla tourism can be marketed as luxury experience in the country.
On average, gorilla trekking can cost a couple $5,000, so I would consider this to be luxury tourism, he said.
But he added that more products are needed to diversify the country’s luxury tourism offering.