Hospitality Sector in Uganda: An Overview of Business Hotel Hilton Garden Inn Kampala

Sanjeev Tiwari shares his assessment of the hospitality sector in Uganda and presents Hilton Garden Inn, a brand new business hotel located in Kampala. Hilton Garden Inn provides accommodations with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a bar. The hotel is currently at 90% plus guest satisfaction index, with the goal to achieve 95% in six months’ time.

Interview with Sanjeev Tiwari, General Manager of Hilton Garden Inn

Sanjeev Tiwari, Managing Director of Hilton Garden Inn

What is your assessment of the hospitality sector in Uganda? What are the trends in the local market?

Hospitality as a sector is emerging in the market now. In the last two years, we have added two international brands. In the next three to five years’ time, we will have another three international brands coming in. Another 1,000 rooms are being added. The industry is evolving. It is not the same Kampala or Uganda anymore. Before, you had standalone properties, no international standards, no international cuisine offering. Now, things are changing. More and more players are coming in and international brands have also realized that they need to respect the local values and culture. We are an international brand but when we offer a menu, it is only at breakfast time that you have international clients because they are staying with us. The rest of the time, our diners are local. In our menus, we give a lot of importance to local cuisine, local flavors, and local ingredients which are available. We are an international brand but we have tried to incorporate the local content as well.

What is your perception of the Ugandan economy? People are saying that there will be a boom in the oil industry in the next three years.

We are currently at 90% plus guest satisfaction index and in six months’ time we want to achieve 95%. 100% satisfaction is our midterm and continuing target into the long term.

Uganda as a country has been very stable and we have a very positive outlook for the next couple of years. Oil is one of the reasons for this, but more than oil, we have seen the development in infrastructure. We have seen how the other sectors and the middle class are growing. When we have the capacity to consume something, the economy goes up and that is what is happening in our market now. We are very positive about Uganda’s economy.

What makes your company stand out from the competitors?

Firstly, being a brand new hotel, we are fresh and modern. We are at an international standard which gives us an edge over our competition. Our location is our second biggest advantage. More than anything else, Hilton is all about people and the culture. It is about the quality of the service we deliver here with the motivated team that I have. They understand the Hilton culture. That really sets us apart in the sector.

What do you do to achieve this motivation?

Firstly, we respect each other. In our industry, we say that it is “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” That is the philosophy we follow in our company. We empower them, we train them, we instill our values into them, and we work like a team. This morning we just did our first Brighthearted running with our team members as a team building activity. People really like to participate in these events. They feel like they are part of this excellent team. We have a program called Thrive@Hilton where our team members take care of their body, their mind, and their soul. This exercise was for the body. We will have something in the coming days helping society where we will visit NGOs to donate items our team members have collected and celebrate our togetherness with those less fortunate.

What do you do in the local community?

99% of my team is local. We do not have many great hotel management colleges in Uganda, so we try to recruit them fresh and train them. We give them a career path. Once they are part of our team, they can move onto any East African countries, within Africa, or even outside of Africa.

What do you do for your local clients?

For our local clients, it starts with our menu selection. When they come to our hotel, they are coming to a Hilton Garden Inn property, but at the same time, their local aspirations, their local eating habits must also be respected. We make sure to offer them an international offering, but there is also a small section that is purely Ugandan and purely for our local guests. It makes them happy.

What do you do for companies with conferences or meetings?

We do not do a run of the mill conferencing package. We try to give them a different experience. For example, if there is a conference going on, once you break for tea and coffee you will find a local tea. We have a 300 m² terrace which can be used for outdoor activities. People can have a small ten to twenty minute activity there.

What do you offer in terms of amenities?

We are a business hotel. We offer 96 rooms in four different categories: king, queen, twin, and PWD (persons with disabilities). This is the only hotel in the country which meets all the requirements set for a PWD room. For example, we have a panic button, a pull cord, a vibrating pillow, in addition to the basic requirements like the bed height, grab bars for the toilets, anti-skid flooring, the lower height of wardrobe hangers. In terms of technology and new things which have come up in the market, we really have state of the art facilities. In terms of other amenities, we have an outdoor swimming pool and a gym. Hilton Garden Inn requires a guest laundry facility especially for our long-term guests who would like to do their own laundry. We are the first hotel in the country to have a car lift. We have really utilized the space available to us. Our location is the key and with location comes the cost of the land.

What are your current projects?

Now, we are really focusing on enrolling more members, both local and international, into our Hilton Honors program which is the world’s largest loyalty program. We are starting our month-long festivities starting next week where we do a pre-Christmas celebration with our corporates, supporters, and bookers. We have a Christmas Eve dinner planned on the 24th, a Christmas brunch, a New Year’s Eve dinner, and a New Year’s Day brunch. We also have a couple of packages for our long-term guests. There is also going to be a weekend package launched very soon.

What is the Hilton Honors membership?

Hilton Honors currently has over 100 million members. It is one of the world’s biggest loyalty programs. If you stay at any of our Hilton properties you will earn points. You can redeem those points not only on your stay, but you can also get products from places like Amazon or buy airline miles.

What is your vision for the hotel in the medium term, two years’ time?

We want to establish ourselves as the best business hotel in the city. We are a functional hotel and we offer value for money to our guests. More than anything else, we want to give 100% guest satisfaction. We are currently at 90% plus guest satisfaction index and in six months’ time we want to achieve 95%. 100% satisfaction is our midterm and continuing target into the long term.


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