After just 16 months of operations, the Radisson Blu Hotel & Conference Centre in Kigali has already won the World Travel Awards for leading new hotel and leading conference hotel in Africa. Hope Magazine caught up with a satisfied Denis Dernault, General Manager of the complex.
What do the WTA awards mean for you and your team?
It is really a great achievement. When we started in July 2016, 90% of the employees had never been exposed to the hospitality sector before they came to work with us. In the Western world, people go to hotel school for minimum two years before they set foot in a hotel.
So this is really an exceptional achievement, and I say kudos to them. It’s such a motivation – you probably saw how all of them got on the stage at the WTA ceremony; it was the hard work, the dedication, the commitment that they celebrated there.
Radisson Blu Kigali was also named the leading conference hotel in Rwanda, which is no mean feat given that in the past two years or so, several high-end hotels have opened in Kigali. But isn’t there a risk of over-supply in this market?
I think at the present time, this is the adequate room inventory for the market, because when we are welcoming an international event of importance, everybody is impacted positively by it. It should stay like this probably for the next two years, and then go further, because the MICE business (meetings, incentives, conferences, events) is going to develop. We are now having great visibility, people have seen we have the know-how here, and I trust that in the next three years there will be real improvement in the number of international events hosted here.
For example, the trend in Rwanda in the past has been that the first trimester of a year is always tough for the sector; and this year, it was indeed very difficult. But the first trimester of 2018 looks extremely promising. So that shows MICE is really developing.
So you think the Kigali Convention Centre is sustainable?
I would say the business potential of this complex is amazing. First, it’s all about marketing and putting Rwanda, Kigali and this complex on the international market. And this is what is happening with the Rwanda Convention Bureau: at every big travel fair, we are present as a destination – not as Radisson Blu, Marriott etc. Whenever we have an extremely potential client, we are pitching together and we are able to leverage our joint influence.
Otherwise, this cannot work; we have to look at the macroeconomics of the city, and at the whole experience we have to offer attendees when they come to the destination.
So how does Radisson position itself?
At the Radisson Blu, we consider the other hospitality entities as partners as we are focused, with our management of KCC, to generate large size events to benefits all hotels. We have a meeting of general managers of hotels every month, and this is what we keep talking about: how can we join our forces to bring business to the city, not just with the conference centre, but also through our global brands. We have many global sales offices, and they are also pitching Kigali.
So it’s a cooperation between the hotels. And we as Radisson Blu are here to ensure that this complex shines positively on the rest of the market.
Read this article and more in issue n° 79 of Hope Magazine.