When Saeed Alam, the owner and CEO of The Manor Hotel in Nyarutarama, reads a bad review of his establishment, he is not happy. But not because the review isn’t positive.
“Bad reviews make you mad because you have let someone down. But they do help you to improve,” he says.
And Alam takes his customers’ remarks, and their satisfaction, very seriously indeed. Take for example the main staircase facing the reception, which is covered with beautiful shiny black marble tiles and has a golden finishing touch. These imposing curved stairs have been there since the hotel’s opening in 2010, and nobody ever complained about them.
That is until recently, when a guest remarked that in the evening when going down, the black stairs make it difficult to see the next one. Just one comment in six years, yet Alam immediately took action and soon there will be alternate black and white steps, so that it will be easier to distinguish them.
It is with this kind of personalised service and attention to the guest’s needs that The Manor is positioning itself in the ever more competitive hotel sector in Kigali in particular and Rwanda in general. However, if you suggest to Alam that the industry is becoming quite crowded, he disagrees.
“Coming from a very competitive sector in the UK, I think competition is not bad. The hotel sector in Rwanda is growing, it’s getting better and better, but I don’t think there are too many hotels,” he says. “More hotels also means that the economy is doing better. Of course, there will be growing pains, and some hotels may not be competitive enough, so there will always be corrections by the market.”
As the owner of a boutique hotel, he also doesn’t see the presence of several big luxury hotels in Kigali as a threat.
“The big players have helped us,” he stresses. “They bring in more people. A businessman who’s coming to Rwanda for the first time will stay in one of the big hotels to make a good impression; but when he starts coming back regularly, he’s going to stay at The Manor because it fits his budget better.”
That said, while The Manor may today be a medium-sized hotel, it was conceived with expansion in mind.
“We’re in it for the long haul,” Alam explains. “The hotel as it is today was built as a base that can accommodate 200 rooms. We started with only a few rooms and as business grows, we can increase the capacity. We now have 30 rooms, and we’re considering to add another 50 next year.”
Apart from the accommodation, The Manor can also boast of quite impressive facilities to satisfy both hotel guests and external visitors. They include 3 restaurants (Italian/continental, Chinese and Indian) which can receive up to 400 people and therefore also cater for corporate or private functions; a bar and night club; a gym with nearly 400 members; a hair salon that is one of the few in town that can handle western hairstyles; and 2 conference rooms with a capacity of up to 150 people each. All that is the result of six year of hard work.
“The first 3 to 5 years, all the money we earned went back into the business; we had to build the brand and make ourselves known,” Alam notes. “And I think we succeeded, because in the beginning, people didn’t even know the meaning of ‘The Manor,’ but today you just have to mention the name to any motor-taxi and they know where the hotel is.”
Now, however, he feels it is time to expand. “We have the bread and butter, but we miss the cream,” he says. “All these facilities we have to keep our 4-star rating represent a huge cost, so we need an expansion of the hotel.”
The Manor has also plans to branch out in another way: through its exquisite restaurants Shere Sardar, Marcos Restaurant & Lounge and Silks Restaurant.
“We have created different brands within the hotel, the three restaurants all have their own logo and branding,” Alam explains. “The Manor has so far showcased them, but they can go out of the hotel to other areas through branches or franchising. For example, with the secondary cities coming up, we could set up a restaurant there. It may take a couple of years, but we have a good team and good trainers to make it happen.”
That was different when he started the hotel because back then, Alam says, one of the biggest challenges was the lack of customer service levels among the workforce. “We used to train them here in the hotel, but then they would be poached by the bigger ones,” he recalls. “But today, we see that the efforts of the government are paying off, and universities are producing graduates who are good at service delivery.”
For now, The Manor’s boss is happy that when you google ‘hotels in Kigali,’ The Manor will always be there in the top 3, alongside big ones like Serena or Mariott.
“We’re a small hotel with a big punch,” Alam says with a smile of satisfaction. Which is just what he wants to see on his customers’ faces.
Located in the Heart of Nyarutarama Tel: 0786 654 435 / 0786 650 129
firstname.lastname@example.org / www.themanorrwanda.com
Read this article and more in issue n° 73 of Hope Magazine.