A new landmark hotel promises to enrich social, cultural and economic life in Uganda.His Excellency President Yoweri Museveni officially inaugurated the Kampala Serena Hotel in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan.
The opening of the five-star hotel, previously the Nile Hotel, is a milestone for Uganda’s service and tourism industry.
The Kampala Serena Hotel is the latest addition to the Serena Group of Hotels, owned and operated by Tourism Promotion Services (TPS), an arm of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED). The new hotel will benefit from the Group’s regional presence. Serena Hotels in Africa has expanded from four units in the early 1970s, in Kenya, to a total of 17 properties in Africa, covering Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Mozambique, and now Uganda. Serena also owns and manages properties in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan as part of its mandate to contribute to economic growth in an environmentally and culturally sensitive manner.
Built on 17 acres of lush grounds, the decor of the hotel reflects the Ugandan environment and culture. The architect, Jon Cavanagh of Symbion International, has been inspired by Uganda’s lakes, rivers, lush vegetation and fertile earth. These themes appear in both the exterior features of the hotel and in the room decor, where softly flowing fabrics, muted colours and organic themes prevail. South African-based designer, Paul Smith, consulted to Symbion.
In keeping with Serena’s philosophy of integrating local art and culture into the design of each hotel, the skills of numerous artists have been called upon to create carved panels, mosaic pillars, beaten copper fretwork, traditional jewellery, beaded wall hangings and hand-carved “bambara birds”, which decorate the communal areas. Artists include: Expedito Wakibulla, a Ugandan born wood carver; Yoni Waite (mosaic art); and Julius Mutungi, a Kenyan rock sculpture artist. The hotel is intended to highlight the beauty of African antiquity by the selection of art pieces placed throughout the hotel.
US$30.5 million has been spent in the refurbishment of the hotel over a 17-month period. The 152-bed hotel is one of the largest employers in the country. In keeping with AKFED’s policy, emphasis is placed on hiring locally. The hotel employs some 371 staff directly; of these, 97 percent are Ugandan nationals, while three percent are East African. Direct and indirect benefits positively impact a number of industries that supply goods and services to the hotel.
The hotel includes a conference centre equipped with state-of-the-art facilities. The centre is capable of catering to 1,500 delegates, making it an important venue for international conferences. One such conference on the horizon is the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which Uganda will host next year and which will be attended by Her Majesty the Queen, among other prominent delegates.
Serena Hotels, recipients of the Most Respected Company of the Year Award in East Africa for three consecutive years, enjoy a long-established reputation for the highest standards of comfort and service within environments that meticulously promote indigenous architectural, craft and cultural traditions. Serena builds hotel capacity in regions that are underserved with business and tourist accommodation by other hotel chains. Serena properties have been at the forefront of human resource development, the generation of foreign exchange revenue and providing employment to local residents while bringing environmental sensitivity to the tourism industry in the regions where they operate. Its current portfolio comprises 25 hotels, resorts and safaris lodges in 8 countries - Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, Zanzibar and now Uganda.