Located in Kiyovu, Kigali, at walking distance for the city centre, Park Inn Hotel by Radisson Kigali is the latest entrant in Rwanda’s fast-growing hotel industry – a colourful four-star-plus hotel warmly welcoming Rwandans and foreign business and leisure travellers alike.
The hotel’s General Manager, Jarl Thomas Stene, explained to Hope Magazine how the hotel will be a great addition to the sector and what amenities it has to offer.
Hope Magazine: Can you introduce Park Inn by Radisson Kigali and tell us what it has to offer the market?
Stene: We are the new kid on the block in Kigali and we have 161 fantastic bedrooms, which include 34 superior rooms and four suites.
We have an outdoor swimming pool, a large gym with a professional instructor, a conference area that can host 400 delegates, with all the latest audio-visual equipment and breakout rooms, as well as a night club that is going to be a great addition to Rwanda’s night life.
Our strategy is to offer a wide variety every day of the week that will see us create a standard for the hotel to not only cater for the in-house guests but also to the local community.
We believe that both international and local guests will love the Park Inn because of its design which is vibrant and colourful. Together with our service culture and values, we hope that the guests will have a new experience.
We also want to create a place where Rwandans want to come with their families and friends to socialize and have a good time.
Hope Magazine: One would say that the Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre, which is affiliated to Park Inn by Radisson, already has enough capacity to serve the market. How is Park Inn by Radisson going to be different, what will set you apart?
Stene: Radisson Blu and Park Inn by Radisson both belong to a hotel group called Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, but they are different brands.
Park Inn is a four-star-plus brand that offers general services and serves a different market segment compared to Radisson Blu, which is five-star. But we complement each other in the market – Park Inn positions itself to receive corporate and leisure guests from all walks of life at lower rates.
We want to create a hotel that is for Rwandans and like other hotels in Kigali attract foreign businesspeople to the country.
Compared to other countries, the Rwandan hospitality industry is maybe not yet the strongest but I am very pleased to see the focus and fantastic work the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) is doing in making Kigali become a top MICE destination (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events).
I strongly believe with this focus and with RwandAir’s new routes, Rwanda will attract a lot more business, not only for MICE but also corporate and leisure business. Due to this, I believe that there is need in Kigali for more international four- and five-star hotels such as Park Inn.
Hope Magazine: How are you going to work with other hotels and airlines to see that all of you benefit from the growing tourism business?
Stene: Globally, we work closely with other actors in the Market and as Rwandair starts flying to these destinations, it could be a perfect opportunity to work with both Rwandair and RDB to promote Kigali.
Who Is Thomas Stene
General Manager, Park Inn by Radisson Kigali
Thomas Stene, a Norwegian national, has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry. He started his career as a Meetings and Events Manager at the Radisson SAS Bodo Hotel, Norway in 1995.
In 1998 he moved to Clarion Admiral Hotel in Bergen Norway as Front Office Manager. Thomas rejoined the Rezidor Hotel Group in 2000, when he was appointed General Manager at the Radisson SAS Park Hotel, Haugesund, Norway.
Between 2004 & 2016 his career path has taken him to Azerbaijan, Russia, Prague and Jersey as a General Manager at different Radisson Blu & Park Inn by Radisson Hotels.
In 2016, he was appointed General Manager of the Park Inn by Radisson, Kigali, Rwanda, which is his most recent position.
Thomas, who is hard working, fair and a ‘people person’ open to the ideas of others, says his passion for traveling, exploring new places and meeting new people has influenced his career choice. Growing up he used to be fascinated by the stories his father used to bring back home from his travels.
“I always knew that I would like to pursue a career that could also take me around the world, so the hospitality industry was a natural choice. At one point I was considering to combine studying Economics with a foreign language which could give me an opportunity to have an international career, but in the end, I decided to go for the hospitality industry as I thought that would give me more options, and the fact I love to work with and for people.”
Hope Magazine: The opening of the Park Inn by Radisson has obviously created new opportunities for suppliers and unemployed youth in the country. What kind of opportunities are there and how many jobs have you created for Rwandans?
Stene: I am very pleased to say that we have recruited about 160 mostly Rwandan staff and trained them. We worked very closely with the Akillah Institute to get them and are excited to see that these youth are very passionate about careers in the hospitality industry.
We will continue to provide them with a lot of corporate and professional training, and teach them our service culture, as we have done in the past month in the various outlets that they work in.
We also have a program called Women in Leadership where we focus on developing female managers so that we can have gender equality in management. Hopefully one day we shall have a Rwandan female general manager.
We also have a program called Responsible Business where we like to have local suppliers for all the products and services we need, and let them benefit from our environment. For example, we already work with Question Coffee which supplies us with very good quality coffee.
We also have the Soap for Hope program, in which we completely sterilize used soap from the hotel rooms and make new packaged soap which goes to the community.
Hope Magazine: Lastly, as the Rwandan hospitality sector is getting quite competitive, what will you do to get and stay on top?
Stene: I believe there is enough room for all of us. As I mentioned earlier, we are a colourful hotel and want to create happiness and memorable experiences; we hope that our service culture and the focus on guest experience will make us stand out.
We have a service culture called Adding Color to Life. We always ask ourselves the following questions:
• Why are we here for the guests?
• Who are we to the guests?
• How do we deliver?
• What in essence do we provide?
The answers to that is that first of all, we are here to deliver colourful moments and create a happy place to be. Secondly, we are ‘happy makers.’
Thirdly, we always deliver with a friendly and positive attitude. And fourth, we offer a relaxed, comfortable and vibrant hotel ambience where you can be yourself.
We have also changed the way we think. Previously, we may have focused too much on processes and how we should do things rather than on what the desired guest experience should be.
In order to create a culture for our guests, we are using something called Reverse Thinking – a way of looking at how we interact with our guests. We want to put our guests first, so it makes sense that we take our desired guest experience and use it as the starting point for everything we do. Reverse Thinking requires us to take a look at both our organization and ourselves.
When we put our guests at the centre, we have to determine their desired experience.
There are two simple but important questions when thinking of what our desired guest experience should look like: what we want our guest to experience at the Park Inn by Radisson Kigali, and what we want them to say about us.
To create this culture, we have various training modules for all our staff where we go through all aspects of how we should recreate this culture. We discuss how important it is to connect, be tuned in, go the extra (s)mile and be positive.
We want staff to be engaged with our guests, be curious about them and have fun with them. It is also important that I, as a leader, together with my management team show recognition, coach, trust and inspire our colleagues.
We also encourage and allow our employees to make decisions without having to run them through their supervisors every time an issue comes up – we empower them by showing our trust in them. We strongly believe this will influence the guest experience.
So basically, our service philosophy is to put our guests at the centre and create a memorable and colourful experience for them.
We would like to be a hassle-free hotel with no frills. In addition, we will naturally offer a good night sleep, good meals and fun and vibrant experiences offered by our employees.
Also by working closely with our sister hotel, the Radisson Blu Hotel and Convention Center, hopefully we will be an attractive partner for the business and leisure market.
Read this article and more in issue n° 74 of Hope Magazine.