The Rooftop Rendez-Vous bar and grill is not only literally the cherry on the cake of Ubumwe Grande Hotel in the city centre of Kigali, it also symbolises the establishment’s unique approach to hospitality.
As the name indicates, the Rooftop Rendez-Vous is located on top of the 12-storey hotel which is one of the tallest even among the many new skyscrapers in the city, and it therefore offers an amazing panoramic view of Kigali and its surrounding hills. And as Ubumwe’s General Manager Kenn Munyeki points out, that landscape is also integrated in the bar’s design, as the tented roof has several peaks that symbolise Rwanda’s thousand hills.
That subtle reference to Rwanda is no coincidence. In a city where several international luxury hotels have set up shop in just the last two years, Ubumwe Grande Hotel wants to stand out as a home-grown competitor.
“We’re a 4-star hotel that offers 5-star services,” Munyeki says. “So we concentrate on our service and people; our staff is our biggest asset, and we continuously train them.”
And he is proud to say that the majority of the staff is Rwandan.
“Our policy is to have 90% of Rwandan staff, even our executive chef is Rwandan; the expatriates we bring in should help to upgrade the skills of the local staff,” he explains. “We are distinctly Rwandan, you cannot find Ubumwe elsewhere.”
“With us, you get Rwandan dishes, Rwandan service, Rwandan smiles – in brief, Rwandan hospitality,” he adds. “The staff are our unique selling point, they are Ubumwe – that is how we position ourselves.”
“That is why we invest a lot in them to ensure they’re happy here; we work as equals here, each in his own role, and they feel they’re doing it for the hotel,” Munyeki says.
“And I also want to debunk the myth that Rwandans are not good at services, it’s not true; Rwandans have the best attitude for hospitality, all you have to do is teach them the skills to apply it in a hotel.”
In addition, since about a month the hotel has live inanga music every Wednesday night, and they also want go big on local entertainment with music evenings from Wednesday to Saturday.
In the same philosophy, Ubumwe Grande Hotel buys its food locally as much as possible, and therefore all the beef and vegetables, and most of the fruit served there, to name but a few, come from Rwandan suppliers. What is even better is that prices at Ubumwe are very competitive for a hotel of its standing.
“We’re not targeting a specific audience, we have competitive rates that are affordable for the majority of Rwandans,” Munyeki says, adding that nevertheless given their central location in the business district where there are lots of offices, especially of banks and insurance companies, they are looking at that market.
He also points out that he is happy to note an increase in regional MICE tourism (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions).
“The government is doing its best to promote MICE, and has put everything in place to attract it, but it has also been the main driver behind it. With four big hotels having come into the market in the past year alone, it’s the hotels that are becoming the drivers,” Munyeki remarks.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth and improvement in regional MICE – from DR Congo, Kenya, Uganda. So far it has mainly relied on conferences, but now you also start seeing for example Kenyan companies that used to go to Mombasa for meetings, come to Kigali. It’s becoming a hub.”
Read this article and more in issue n° 77 of Hope Magazine.