Times have really changed and surely even traditions have changed. As cakes and chocolates were mainly female amenities for a perfect celebration, times have changed this notion. A cake is now a necessity at all celebrations just like birthdays are no longer for only women but for men as well.
While speaking to the Sheraton’s Marketing director Jennifer Musiime she explicitly agreed with the belief that cakes are no longer stereotyped for only ladies but it’s something that makes any celebration worthwhile and this stretches to all kinds of celebrations like birthdays, anniversaries, weddings to mention but a few.
She further agrees that cakes used to be for weddings and serious celebration however this has changed over time to having cakes anytime and for every celebration. At Sheraton we have a confectionery shop called Temptations and I am very confident and comfortable to say we make the best affordable cakes in Kampala.
With black forest being one the most famous cakes, we have other flavors that our customers can chose from at an affordable price. She added.
Additionally, cake is not only for celebrations but can be eaten after a meal as desert, at breakfast or as a snack. Cakes have numerous health benefits like cakes baked specifically using the dark chocolate contain Flavanols and catechins that resist the damage caused by the oxidation process and thus cakes acting as anti-oxidants agents.
It has also been proven that cakes are stress relievers especially those with chocolate because of the sugar in them that is converted into glucose and thus energy which triggers a happy and relaxed mood.
Cakes that contain fruits like apples, berries, carrots and pineapples are a good source of fiber and high-fiber diets are known to help in better digestion. Regular intake of cakes containing the above named fruits will help increase the fiber level in your body thus improved digestion and thus reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and hypertension.
Bodybuilders or people who want to add on mass are advised to include cake in their diet because it has a couple of nutrients like vitamins, calcium; and proteins which are body-building foods and also provides energy which is needed when training in the gym.
It should however be noted that cakes are not to be taken on a daily basis since they are not a whole package of a balanced diet. They should be taken once in a while and remember to always take a balanced diet for healthy living.
Martin Kiseka a cake baker at Sheraton’s Temptation cakes says cakes have always been part of celebrations and generally art of meals. Cakes come in different flavors, shapes, colors and sizes depending on what an individual want. Cakes also vary in the ingredients used for instance foam and spongy cakes, tortes, unbaked cakes, yeast cakes, flourless or less flour cakes, egg and oil cakes among others.
Many cakes bakers are creatively coming up with more varieties of cakes and this is mainly because of changing trends in tastes, costs and many others. At temptations we have adopted most of the famous cakes like black forest, red velvet to mention but a few and we can also make cakes of your preference.
As you approach Mbale district in the East of Uganda, you will see across in the distance a looming dark object covered by mist or scattered clouds. The object magnifies when you get to Mbale, standing in all its glory as a guardian angel watching over the quaint town and its people.
Mount Elgon or Masaba, has one of the world’s largest intact caldera and with an estimated elevation of 10,070 ft above sea level, the highest known peak is called Wagagai. The extinct volcano is estimated to be over 24 million years old and sits on the border between Uganda and Kenya, with the largest portion being found in the former.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority page explains that Mount Elgon was built up from lava debris that blew out from an enlarged volcanic vent during the pliocene epoch or system of rocks deposited. The mountain’s geological formation is dominated by basaltic materials and is a number of weathered granite at the basement complex.
It is reported that carbonatite intrusions on the lower slopes after causing fenitization of the granites, rendered them sensitive to the instability on the slopes. The climate around Mount Elgon can be classified as generally rainy, with the occasional months of sunny weather through the year.
Mount Elgon is one of the oldest physical features in Uganda and is home to over four tribes including those from Kenya. However in Uganda, it is most known for being the home of the Bagisu, a bantu tribe that occupies most of the slopes of the mountain.
The slopes of Mountain Elgon have fertile soils that have been used to grow some of the best coffee in the world, Arabica. The slopes are also conducive for yams, cassava, bananas, beans and maize among other perennial foods that can be easily sustained in the area by the farmers.
The mountain is also home to the Mount Elgon National Park that is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority for the government of Uganda. The park covers stretches over into Kenya and is home to different animals including the red-tailed monkeys, elephants and buffalos which can mostly be seen at the slopes of the mountains.
Within the park you will find over 300 species of birds that migrate through the region, including those native to the country; some of the birds are said to be endangered species. A list that any ardent birdwatcher would not pass up on.
Though not well known in the country, the Mount Elgon National Park is open all year round and has been attracting several hikers trying their luck at scaling their way to the Wagagai summit. The region has so much tourism potential for the country; you can explore several caves on the hiking trail such as the crystalline walled Kitum cave and enjoy the beautiful views at the Endebess escarpment, which includes several of the rivers in the region (River Manafwa, Kufu) and the gorges.
There are forest walks organised by the Uganda Wildlife officials to show visitors some of the different species of vegetation in the forests which include bamboo trees, mahogany, eucalyptus, pine scattered through the park and the slopes of the mountain.
Apart from the thick vegetation being home to the birds and small animals, it is home to different rare species of butterflies that can be viewed in the area during the walks.
One of the most beautiful views from the mountain are the falls; Sipi, Simu and Sisi falls that cascade from the rocks and create a of water and light. Located in Kapchwora, the Sipi falls are the most visited in the area and are worthy adding on your tour itinerary when exploring the Elgon.
The areas around the mountain are slowed down by the poor road development that could easily improve on the traffic and few good travel lodges as compared to Western Uganda that has many lodges in the parks.
Alot more effort needs to be put on promoting the tourism potential of Eastern Uganda for the region to become a budding tourist hub; the same way the West is promoted. This will help improve returns on tourism in the country.
Even so, the areas below the slopes such as Mbale have good accommodation such as hotels, lodges and hostels that travellers can stay in to prepare and rest up after they have had a wonderful day up at the mountain.
This article was written Jumia Travel
About Jumia Travel
Travel.jumia.com is Africa's No.1 hotel booking website, allowing you to get the best prices for more than 25,000 hotels in Africa and more than 200,000 hotels around the world. Our ambition is to bring every bit of available accommodation online, and to create the easiest and cheapest way for customers to book it.
At Jumia Travel, we have hundreds of travel specialists constantly in touch with our customers. Our offices are located in Lagos (Nigeria), Accra (Ghana), Dakar (Senegal), Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Algiers (Algeria), Douala (Cameroon), Kampala (Uganda), Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania), Nairobi (Kenya), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Porto (Portugal) and Paris (France).
Before June 2016, Jumia Travel was known as Jovago. Jumia Travel was founded in 2013 by Jumia and is backed by MTN, Rocket Internet, Millicom, Orange, Axa and financial partners.
When the light hits the water at a certain point in the day creating a beautiful array of lights
The hotel business is central in the development of a tourism industry in any given country. It is even more important in developing countries like Uganda where foreign tourists think twice before deciding to board the plane. For hotels in a country like Uganda must be in a good shape, with good services and well marketed.
In Uganda, Jumia Travel, formerly Jovago, is doing the job of showcasing Ugandan hotels on the wide wild web as Louis Badea, Jumia Travel country manager explains in this exclusive Question and Answer interview recently conducted by Earthfinds Editor Baz Waiswa. Read on.
What do you really do as a business?
Basically I manage the operations of Jumia Travel in Uganda. We are the first online hotel booking website in Africa. Jumia Travel is a portal on which travelers, guests and customers can find and book hotels for accommodation and meetings.
You recently rebranded from Jovago to Jumia Travel, how is this going to accelerate your business deepening in Africa?
We used to be part of a group called Africa Internet Group (AIG), now called Jumia Group, which owns a number of websites includes Jovago now Jumia Travel, Hellofood now Jumia Food, Everjobs now Jumia Jobs, Kaymu now Jimia Market among others.
Jumia was the most famous brand especially in Kenya and Nigeria. So our management considered that since this Jumia venture was popular and appreciated by our customers, they saw that if we ran all the ventures under the Jumia name, we would get more visibility and traffic.
Therefore we joined our strength to grow. Of course we were worried a bit, it’s a big change, but the impact is really good, people are curious, our traffic has increased and now people know that they can get whatever they want in one place.
One month after you rebranded, how has the Uganda market reacting to the change of name?
In Uganda we are seeing an increase in traffic but at the same time we did it at the beginning of a high season, the business is good. We have seen increase in traffic and hotel bookings.
You have been in Uganda for a year now, how have you performed as compared to your business plan and projections?
We have performed quite well. When we came here we used to cover only a few parts of the country, now we have hotels everywhere in Uganda. We are in western Uganda - Kisoro, Kabale, all the national parks, Mbarara; central region – Kampala, Entebbe; eastern region - Malaba, Mbale and in the north.
We have done well in terms of improved hotel content on our website. When you visit the website, you will see good pictures and accurate information. We make sure that our prices are competitive. We have good diversity of hotels on our web portal.
All a customer has to do is to go on the website, select the destination you are going to, for example is its Gulu, you select Gulu, filter through the list of the hotels in Gulu according to amenities you are want then select the number of rooms and nights you will spend there. On this page, you make a choice of how you want to make the payment.
You can pay by credit card, Mobile Money or cash at the hotel. The hotel gives us the rates. We can advise them according to the season or start promotions to attract customers. On the Mobile App, hotels can update the prices and details of what they are offering.
What have been some of the challenges operating in Uganda so far?
The challenge, I would say in Uganda, especially in national parks, is that the lodges are expensive if you compare with other countries say South Africa. Here we still lack middle range affordable lodges. Sometimes we have cheap tents but it is hard to find lodges of $100 -&200. It is the same with hotels in Kampala, there are many good quality hotels but very expensive.
We sometime we have issues with internet to communicate. We wanted to book for a client in Juba but we couldn’t, six months ago we wanted to book in Bujumbura but the network had been cut off so we were not able to confirm the bookings. Political instability is a problem, if there is a war we cannot do business, this is a challenge but we keep our customers informed.
Sometime the hotels don’t have trained staff or they don’t communicate to their employees. We have signed contracts with hotels but when clients reach the hotels, the receptionists don’t receive them well because management has not informed them of our arrangement.
The other challenge is locating hotels. Many hotels are located in places with no plot numbers so finding them is a problem. Some cannot be tracked on GPS.
And the achievements?
Every month hotel booking are growing and we have grown the number of hotels on our website. We have also seen the number of reviews increase on the website which means people are appreciating our services.
We have been able to give visibility to hotels in Uganda. 60 percent (about 400 hotels) of hotels on our web portal are marketing online for the first time. We give them that chance to get business and visibility on our website. This is good achievement for us.
Uganda is taking a giant step marketing itself as a top tourism destination, as a stakeholder, what are you willing to contribute to this cause?
Uganda is less popular than Kenya and Tanzania when it comes to tourism mostly due to lack of visibility. Most people outside Africa think Amin Dada is still here, this is because Uganda doesn’t market herself enough. We try to market Uganda – tell the world that Uganda is safe and cheap.
We try to tell the world that travelling to Uganda is possible. We connect travelers from all over the world to hotels in Uganda. For example a traveler from Tokyo can find a hotel in Uganda before coming down here at competitive rates. We make sure hotels in Uganda get visibility from all over the world.
How many Ugandan hotels have you listed on your web portal?
It should be about 800 hotels – 200 hotels in Kampala. We register new hotels all the time. For hotels to be on our platform they need to have two ways of payment – pre-payment and post payment – meaning people can pay using credit cards or Mobile Money or book and pay at the hotel. Most of the guests book online and pay at the hotel.
Other amenities that customers consider when booking are WIFI (37%), swimming pool (26%), bed and breakfast (17%, AC (15%) and transport (5%). If the hotel doesn’t provide these services then there is quite a problem. Booking by star hotel rating stands at 1 star hotels (3%), 2 star hotels (31%), 3 star hotels (46%), 4 star hotels (17%) and 5 Star hotels (7%).
As an institution that deals with hotels, what is your earnest comment on the quality and seriousness of Ugandan hotels?
I think they are good; the lodges are good but expensive, then if we look at Kampala, very many good hotels are coming up. We also have hotels that lack renovation. Sometimes there is lack of customer services training but I know Uganda Hotel Owners Association is working on it. Sometime the hotel staff is not well trained.
Where do these hotels need to improve?
They should make sure the operations manager is good. They should train people. Sometimes when you go to TripAdvisor you find hotels with bad reviews but their managers have not bothered to respond. It also happens even on our website, it is important to check reviews and respond.
If I am the manager, I make sure I check all the reviews and train my staff to ensure that whatever made the customer to complain doesn’t happen again. When you have good services, you get good reviews and ranking improves.
What do travelers look out for in a hotel? What are their expectations?
It is mainly WIFI, swimming pool, good food, good staff and good value for what they are going to pay. So the prices you put must match with what you are offering. Hotels sometimes think that all expatriates earn $10, 000, so they think all Mzungu can pay $600 for a room.
Hotels should have affordable prices. Not all tourists can afford to pay for a $500 a night. Hotels should pay attention to customer demands, what is happening in the market to stay competitive.
What type of travelers’ book for hotels in Uganda on your website?
50% of bookings are made from inside Uganda then from Kenya. So it is Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria, UK and US. We get lots of people from Kenya. We don’t ask for nationalities but we can only trace IP addresses. They are usually business travelers.
What are you planes for the coming years, what should Uganda expect from Jumia Travel?
We are going to start offline marketing, go out and meet people in the streets, sponsor events and sign up hotels. We will continue offering better services and improve our Mobile App to enable hotel owners manage their content better. We have a partnership with Uganda Hotel Owners to do training. We will handle topics like marketing and customer care.
Over 200 researchers, policy makers and doctors met at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Arusha to deliberate on the challenges the EA countries faced in diagnosing and treating of tuberculosis (TB).
The meeting also kicked off an initiative to fight tuberculosis out of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda last Friday. TB affects over 60% of people with HIV/Aids and it is one of the diseases that most disturbs diabetes patients.
The three East African countries are among the 22 TB high burden countries in the world and this project taps into the regional expertise of East African researchers, practitioners and policy makers to deal with the disease.
However, before TB can be defeated, participants called upon concerted efforts to help reduce poverty in the region. Prof Gibson Sammy Kibiki, the head of the East African Community Health and Research Commission said, "If we want to fight poverty in the real sense, we have to fight diseases."
The project codenamed Tuberculosis: Working to Empower Nations Diagnostic Efforts (TWENDE), aims at coming up with the regional roadmap to facilitate the eradication of TB within the World Health organization target of 2035.
"When we bring together our expertise, we can translate our research into policy and practice," said Dr Nyanda Elias Ntinginya, the Principal investigator for TWENDE in Tanzania while underscoring the need to fight TB at regional level.
"TB knows no borders", Dr Nyanda said at the press conference earlier on Friday morning, highlighting the fact that East Africans are now mobile and therefore move with the disease.
Participants called upon governments of East Africa to pay attention to poverty as it is a key driving factor in the spread of TB.
"TB is a disease of poverty, overcrowding and malnutrition," said Dr Ewan Chirnside from the University of St Andrews in U.K. which is the lead institution in the TWENDE consortium.
Prof Christopher Garimoi Orach from Makerere University added that poverty leads to TB through malnutrition and lack of access to medical care due to financial difficulties. He called upon governments to invest in communities that are prone to TB by offering them social security.
TWENDE will be focusing on innovations in diagnostics as a way of preventing TB, early detection and treatment.
The project will be working with researchers at Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kilimanjaro Clinical Research Institute, Tanzania National Institute of Medical Research, Makerere University and CPAR Uganda Ltd.
About 300,000 people in East Africa get TB every year.
Dr Evans Amukoye of KMRI said Kenya reports about 120,000 new TB cases every year. Dr Alphonse Okwera who heads Uganda's TB unit at Mulago Hospital says 50,000 cases are reported in Uganda while Dr Nyanda says 68,000 cases are reported in Tanzania.
Dr Okwera highlighted the bad alliance between HIV, AIDS and TB, as a deadly combination for victims.
"You cannot deal with TB effectively without dealing with HIV," added Dr Wilber Sabiiti, the lead researcher for TWENDE.
Africa Internet Group last week took a bold step in deepening its business on the African continent by rebranding all their nine platforms to Jumia. The company said the change will connect its companies into Jumia’s ecosystem with a new vision, "Expand your horizons".
This means that all services will bear the name Jumia -- with a focus on their main activity: Jumia Market (kaymu) / Travel (jovago) / Food (hellofood) / Deals (vendito) / House (lamudi) / Jobs (everjobs) / Car (carmudi) / Services (AIGX).
Ron Kanawamara of Africa Internet Group said all services will be interconnected so that customers can easily browse from one Jumia service to another in one click. “We are taking the entire economy online, enabling small, medium and large African companies to find new customers and serve them in a new way,” Kanawamra said at a conference.
“Additionally, we will allow all our customers to navigate seamlessly across all our platforms with the same login credentials - so they don’t have to re-enter their information when navigating on a new platform,” Kanawamara added.
Kanawamara revealed that over 500,000 local companies are making business on Jumia every day and that more than 10,000 brands are building their awareness on Jumia, local logistics companies are delivering millions of packages every year thanks to Jumia.
After 4 years of successfully establishing and growing its online services as leaders in their markets, Africa Internet Group, now Jumia, has become the number one E-commerce platform in Africa.
“We founded our companies with a very strong belief: Internet can improve people’s lives in Africa. Uniting all services allows us to better help our customers fulfill their daily aspirations. This is all possible because people connect to our platform to access those services and products in an environment that we have designed for them, addressing their needs and expectations on quality, choice, price, trust and convenience.” said Sacha Poignonnec and Jeremy Hodara, founders and co-CEOs of Jumia.
People can now find on Jumia all their needs; branded products with Jumia : fashion and electronics with Jumia (prev. Jumia and Kaymu)], local sellers with Jumia Market (prev. Kaymu), hotel booking with Jumia Travel (Jovago), food delivery with Jumia Food (Hellofood), Jumia House (Lamudi), Jumia Jobs and (Everjobs) and lastly logistics services with Jumia Services (AIGX).
Furthermore, sellers will also benefit from this move, by getting access to more traffic and to a greater world of opportunities. Every day, Jumia helps and encourages restaurants, hotels, local sellers, brands, real estate agents, car dealers, large companies and logistic companies to become better, bigger in performance thus creating positive impact for Africa.
The founders reiterated that, “Operating under the same brand name reinforces the legitimacy of proposing other services to our customers and to our sellers. We want to have one strong brand that is trusted and loved by our customers across Africa”.
Jumia’s new vision, “Expand your horizons”, expresses the group’s ambition to transform people’s lives through internet, overcoming the ground market challenges of the continent and giving all Africans the opportunity to access high quality services and products everywhere.
Rajiv Ruparelia, the lead Director of Ruparelia Group of Companies has been honored for his outstanding contribution, work and supporting the Youth of Uganda in the struggle to fight unemployment.The recognition comes from Young Power Uganda, a registered Ugandan Youth Group that is composed of thousands of Ugandan Youth across the country with the main purpose of joining efforts with the Government of Uganda to promote the youth.
Rajiv Ruparelia has over the past seven (7) years taken the unique initiative in the Ruparelia Billion dollar Business Empire to employ thousands of Ugandan Youth most especially in Rosebud Flower Farm, Premier Roses Flower Farm and Crane Bank. As director in the Ruparelia Group, Rajiv has helped youth get jobs in the Groups hotels like Munyonyo Common Wealth Resort, Speke Hotel, Kabira Country Club, Speke Resort Munyonyo, Dolphin Suites and Forest Cottages.
Other youths are being employed by Sanyu FM, Gold Star Insurance, Meera Investments, Crane Management Services, Kampala Parents School, Kampala International School Uganda (KISU) Delhi Public School Uganda (DPS), Victoria University Kampala, Ruparelia Foundation, Crane Financial Services among other outstanding organisations and companies.
The Working for Youth Award was awarded to Rajiv Ruparelia for his direct positive actions to Ugandan Young people such as himself. The Youth Group Award recognizes his significant contribution to the Ugandan Youth Communities.
Rajiv is a Young Entrepreneur who has demonstrated support to other young entrepreneurs across the country. The Award also recognized his leadership in Project Management as he is currently the one of the Country’s number one driver in construction projects such as Speke Apartments on Wampewo Avenue, The Cube at Kisementi and Hardware City Complex on Entebbe Road for Nakasero Traders proving himself as a Construction Magnate.
The Youth Group also recognized the unique depth of expertise and skill he has at managing the billion dollar Ugandan Organization that was recently recognized by Forbes, an American business Magazine that features finance, industry, investing, , technology, communications, science and also well-known its lists and rankings such as Africa's 50 Richest List - Forbes that features Ruparelia Group.
Rajiv Ruparelia is a Young man that has Uganda at Heart specifically focused at achieving development goals of other Ugandan Youths. Young people throughout Uganda are undertaking projects and initiatives ranging from poverty alleviation to Entrepreneurship in their diligent efforts at promoting and enhancing growth and development in Uganda.
Promoting youth participation;
Promoting economic empowerment of young people;
Take action for equality between young women and men in business;
Promoting environments in which business can be made;
Providing quality education (Kampala Parents School, Kampala International School, Delhi Public School and Uganda’s leading top quality University, Victoria University).
Engaging young people to protect the environment among others.
Upon his recognition Rajiv also the Managing Director Crane Management Services Limited (C.M.S.), a highly professional property management company, with a Strong asset base and forms part of a financially sound group having diversified business interests, including: banking, insurance, hotels, international trade, Forex Bureau operations, leisure resorts and property management & development among others said
“This Year we are scheduled to employ a minimum of 3,000 Ugandan Youth at Namulonge Flower Farm and Speke Apartments at Wampewo Avenue”. In Down town Kampala, we are slated to providing Rental Shops and Offices to Youth in IT, Website Design, Advertising and Marketing and they will pay affordable business rent starting from Ugx 600,000/= per month”.
Other powerful organizations and Institutions that have been awarded this prestigious award are Capital Shopper Group of Posiano and Eva Ngabirano (who provide hundreds of Jobs to youth and provide them quality Lunch on a daily basis), The Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Gender, Mr. Pius Bigirimana for starting and implementing Youth Livelihood Program where Ugx 100m is recovered back on a weekly basis from Youth Ventures, Robert Kabushenga for organizing Pakasa Forum where Youth converge and learn from Successful Entrepreneurs as well as Smile Telecommunications that employs 90% Youth.
Uganda is ambitiously fast tracking her tourism potential to make a quick buck from foreign and local tourists eager to discover the East African country. In this optimistic quest for tourism glory, the country will need partners who understand and are willing to push the agenda.
Some of the most crucial partners that are central in realizing this target are the hoteliers running a successful hospitality industry operating at an international level. Without a proper and a top notch hospitality players tourism adventures will only hit a dead end.
In this interview, Jean – Philippe Bittencourt, the General Manager of Sheraton Kampala Hotel explains to Baz Waiswa, the editor, Earthfinds, the role the five star hotel is playing in advancing the country’s tourism agenda, what the hospitality industry must do and the potential of Uganda’s tourism.
You joined Sheraton Kampala Hotel in January, describe you experience working at the hotel in the last five months?
We are meeting people, entities and getting more familiar with the strategies of the country in terms of tourism even though because of elections things are a little bit on standby. Now that elections are over, I hope that things that must be done to promote tourism will be done.
We all agree that Uganda needs a lot of exposure, promotion and presence at key events like international exhibitions. We need to create an image for Uganda that differentiates it from neighboring countries and that represents an added value, a different experience that the tourists are looking for.
This focus should be directed in the area of events. Events help filling up that gap. Kampala should be able to host international events. These events are fixed sometimes a year earlier therefore we should have a package that is attractive for the organizer to come to this destination.
A lot of things must be done in between us in the hotel business. We are working tightly together because when we are talking about big events, conventions, everybody benefits.
Infrastructure is a big challenge, especially the roads; access to Entebbe - Kampala is a need that must be resolved as soon as possible. When I hear about 2018, I think it is too long and we in the hotel hear people complain about that road. They also complain about the traffic in town but mainly the road to the airport because losing a flight is a challenge for the traveler especially for people with tight agendas.
Training is another area we need professionals. We need specialized institutions to train people to work in all the hotels opening up in the country. Today it is the hotels full filling this role. It’s time to have a reliable institution with good back up probably a partnership with an international educational institute that can give support and prepare the trainers.
A hotel employees people in different areas from finance to kitchen, waiters, chambermaids, human resources, IT among others. We need specialized people who can understand the complexity of a hotel.
What sort of experience do you bring to Sheraton Kampala Hotel considering that the hotel industry is still young and yearning to learn a thing or two from the industry ‘big boys’?
I have more than 30 years of experience gained while working for different international brands. I work for Sheraton today but I have worked with other international brands so I have good knowledge of different approaches to benefit a hotel.
I have worked in different continents so I am familiar with different cultures and I have capacity to easily adapt and understand new environments. I have opened new hotels, refurbished hotels. One of my missions here is to carry out the renovation project of Sheraton Kampala Hotel. It requires a good understanding of how to manage projects.
One of my key factors is that I am very human oriented, I tend to understand and mingle with people easily, socialize and become familiar with the environment easily. Uganda has good people. When you come to Uganda, you immediately feel that you want to stay here for long. So I hope I can bring something for the long term, not only to Sheraton but to Uganda.
What has been your experience working with hoteliers in Uganda especially those outside Sheraton?
Well there are very good competitors not only hotels but there are plenty of restaurants opening especially in Kampala with well-trained people. That is interesting to see. I have been meeting different either hotel owners or managers because I am part of Uganda Hotel Owners Association.
I am the chairman of Kampala Chapter so I have been talking with authorities like Uganda Tourism Board or the ministry of tourism about these action plans and strategies on how to make sure the tourism figures increase.
There are four priority areas that must be taken care of as everybody agreed. These are promotion and market, taxes (especially airport tax which is too high at $100), training staff and of course infrastructure. Apart from airport tax, the amount of tax hotel owners pay is high but we have requested the authorities to look into it.
Uganda is positioning itself as a key tourism destination to the world, as a five star hotel and stakeholder in the tourism sector how are you planning to aid this effort?
We try to respond positively to any initiative as suggested by the tourism board. We participate with them in different international trade shows. We have an agenda as Starwood, we try to visit neighboring countries especially Kenya where we get very many clients coming from there. We also look for new markets - we are looking at China.
We have been participating in those big international trade shows with a focus on tourism like ITB Berlin Tourism Expo. We try to be present at different channels where we can create visibility. We believe in online business so we try to be reactive and present on social media. We try to make things lively by responding.
From your experience as a hotel manager what do travelers/tourists look for in a hotel before they make their booking decision?
The world we are living in is a turbulent world especially when it comes to safety and security. So that became extremely important in any type of hotel. Hotels with an international brand are a target so at Sheraton we became much more conscious of that.
We have invested a lot of money in ensuring that there is reinforcement, training, and all sorts of process and procedure to make sure the guests feel secure when they are here.
People are looking and demanding for technology. You might be on holiday but you want to keep in touch with your emails, friends, family or office. Today it is very difficult to detach yourself from a professional life and personal life even when you are in a moment of leisure.
Then of course the comfort - from the type of room, the facilities you find in a hotel room. The guest room is not only a place to sleep but where people can get entertainment. Some people work in their rooms. Some spend a lot of time in the rooms watching movies. All these must be there.
The hotel must provide a good experience in terms of food and beverages. People like to discover different fusion of cuisines. When they come to Uganda, they want Ugandan food, then another day they want to try Italian food, so we must have all these different options.
When we talk about food it must be health. People are conscious about their health, their shape, so you need to have these health menus. Then there is food restrictions, people have allergies for certain products.
Some religions don’t eat certain foods so when making a menu you should be in consideration of all these issues. Like at the moment, we are in Ramadan, we must have an iftar, which is the break of fast, it is much appreciated by our Muslim clients. We have a specific place for prayers so they know we care about them. We are also looking at our clients from China, South Korea. We need to customize some of our services.
Tourists when want to see nice people, beautiful girls or guys well dressed. They want nice music, good selection of wines and beers.
One of the challenges hotels in Uganda face is a lack of experienced workforce. What has been your observation regarding this trend and what is Sheraton doing to build capacity for local hotel employees?
Uganda have very good people here but they need right institutions to prepare them. Kenya kick started their tourism industry so many years ago, it was the first destination in this region for tourism, today you have new markets, new options, Tanzania and Rwanda.
The people here in Uganda are naturally welcoming, they have a beautiful smile, they just need to learn through training and practice. Exposure is very important, so I strongly recommend to young people here, if they have a chance to go out of the country to do so.
They will come back with a different background and perception. If someone has not seen anything other than what he or she is used too then it is difficult to know what an international traveler expects. Everyone has different expectations
The hotel business requires a certain set of standards, what can upcoming hotels do to stay afloat, what can they learn from Sheraton?
They must invest in professionals who can run the business. It is important to have professionals that know what the business is about. Sometimes the problem with independent hotels is that the owner is from real estate background, his perception of a hotel is of a client, he needs a professional to run the business.
Sheraton is known as a high-end hotel occasioned mostly by foreigners, how would you describe the archetypical Sheraton Kampala client?
Our customers are international travelers, people who are doing business or leisure, they are well connected, so they know what they want. They are demanding, demanding of all those services that are now a necessity today. If internet was not working, they would get mad and crazy with us because to them it is like water, they don’t take it for granted. Wherever they go they find it.
And lastly, why should someone visiting Uganda for the first time stay at Sheraton? Warm regards,
We are an international brand. Almost 80 years of existence. Then the security of the site, we are considered to be one of the safest place in town and the service that we provide, our facilities and everything that a customer will find here, says Sheraton is the best property in town.
We have our 50th anniversary in 2017, so we are trying to work on the agenda of celebration. 2017 will be a great year for us. We are moving on with the project of renovating the building, the rooms, invest in infrastructures which are necessary.
We are making sure that we are part of big local events like the Kampala Restaurant Week. We are also trying to be innovative and bring new offers. We are proud being part of this history, being in Kampalanfor so many years. We are honored to be the first international hotel in Uganda.
We should be prepared for competition, they are very many hotels and restaurants coming up but we have a loyal clientele that feels comfortable here because they are well known and recognized. They feel like they are home.
A lot of guests don’t come here for just one night, sometimes they stay for weeks, months, so they have their own preferred rooms, chambermaids, and waiters to take care of their needs. This kind of tailor made service is important.
I have met guests who have come here since 1992, it’s amazing to hear that. Other hotels have opened but they prefer to come here. Some people have their important events here. There are marrying here, they got married here and their children are getting married here.
I met a client who wanted to celebrate their 40th anniversary in the same room they had their honeymoon. People are attached to this hotel because it part of their history. So we must preserve that.
Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) has said they will use money collected from the 12th edition of the MTN Kampala Marathon, which took place last year, to build biogas toilet facilities in Uganda Primary Education (UPE) aided schools.
The Executive Director of KCCA Jennifer Musisi said most schools use firewood to prepare meals for pupils which makes it expensive to run these schools. The biogas which will be tapped from toilets constructed using funds from the Marathon will be used in school’s kitchen and for lighting.
The telecom company delivered Shs500 million collected from the Marathon, conducted under the theme “Run for Kampala” and attracted close to 20,000 participants, to KCCA towards the development of the city’s schools bio-toilet facilities at their head office Thursday morning.
Kampala has 79 government grant-aided primary schools with a total enrolment of close to 70, 000 pupils under the jurisdiction of KCCA. The average pupil – toilet stance ratio stands at 50:1, an improvement from an average ratio of over 80:1 from when KCCA took over.
Musisi said some schools still have a high toilet stance – pupil’s ratio. Police children schools have a ratio of 111:1. This challenge is also made worse by the lack of piped water. Schools that lack piped water depend on wells.
The MTN Uganda Chief Executive Officer Brian Gouldie said KCCA was selected in its capacity as the administrator of the earmarked city schools around the five divisions of Kampala. Gouldie added that the money raised will also go towards improving access to sustainable sanitation and safe water for the vulnerable urban communities especially children.
The 2015 MTN Kampala Marathon partners included Huawei Uganda, New Vision, Stanbic Bank Uganda, Rwenzori Water, Spedag Interfrieght Uganda and Uganda Athletic Federation (UAF).
Today’s youths are faced with a myriad of challenges in their quest to find a footing in a competitive modern society that requires enormous strategic planning, grooming and making of spot on choices and decisions.
However, experts believe that how one ends up in life is solely a combination of the choices they make in their youthful days, the education path they take, careers they choose and lifestyle to live.
In preparation for the kind of adult members of society they want to become, students of Victoria University had a chance to hear and learn from people who have been there, done it and came out on the top.
This was during a one day career day hosted by the University at their Jinja road campus located in the heat of Kampala. The event was hosted under the theme ‘Student of the Future’
The career day was facilitated by seasoned journalist and founder of The Independent Magazine Andrew Mwenda, renowned speaker Ethan Musoloni, and Makerere College of Health Sciences Mulago professor Dr. Sabrina Kitaka.
James Sakka, the Executive Director of National Information Technology Association (NITA-U) also addressed students who attended the career fair. Over 200 students attended the event that aimed at shaping their career choices.
Dr. Sabrina Kitaka speaking to students at the career day encouraged them to work hard in silence and let their success make the noise. She counseled that chasing a goal without a plan is just a wish.
The Makerere College of Health Sciences Mulago pediatrician said students must be flexible, look after their lives and be “students who make a difference for others” in society adding that students should plan their future carefully and know exactly what they want to be in life.
In his opening remarks, Dr Stephen Isabalija, the vice chancellor of Victoria University, told students that the responsibility to determine their future was in their hands. Musoloni, who has made his name as a motivational speaker scorned that ‘if you have 9 poor friends you are bound to become number 10’ an implication that the kind of friends matter a lot in shaping one’s future.
“You always have to work hard for your future, emphasize being known for something and be different.” Musoloni told students. “Young people want all the good things in life but they don’t want to get up and work to achieve it. A farmer does not sit and wish for harvest but goes to the garden and cultivating.” He added.
In his address before students, Andrew Mwenda, a journalist and entrepreneur, advised students not to define success basing on money but "on the passion that drives you." He urged students to build their own image but not to imitate successful people.
Dr. Kitaka despised students who spend much of their time on social media doing nothing instead of paying attention to activities that can change their lives for the good. She warned of the threats that technology advancement pauses to young people.
“Young people are absorbed in Facebook, WhatsApp. They are addicted to social media. Some of the Masters students that I teach hardly concentrate on what I am saying because they are stuck on their phones.” She said.
James Saka the ED of NITA-U encouraged students to purposefully use technology because ICTs has grown to become a big resource for information especially for school going youths.
“Today, the internet is a source of information but young people continue to misuse it instead of acquiring more knowledge to use in their academic work. Some other creative youths are using social media to do business and engaging in work that pays them like social media marketing,” Saka stated.
He however was quick to highlight the security risks involved when technology especially social medias are misused. He warned of internet based fraudsters who are out to con unsuspecting people.
A global wave of actions to keep fossil fuels in the ground has been gathering momentum all over the world. Already seen in countries such as UK, over 300 people shut down the UK’s largest open cast coal mine for a day. Hours later, 10,000 people from all over the Philippines gathered in Batangas City to demand an end to coal.
All these huge actions are in the name of ending the dark activities of fossil fuel companies. As such, the potential harms of Uganda’s budding oil well as well as the building of pipelines towards Tanzania should never be overlooked. With economic specs on, oil and gas looks like a worthy undertaking. But zooming towards the real world infested by climate change syndromes, you are instantly shocked by the obvious contributions of burning fossil fuels to climate change.
While “Phasing out fossil fuels,” is a decision already reached by 195 countries including Uganda during the 2015 United Nation’s Climate Change Conference in Paris, the land locked country is embarking on gigantic fossil fuel investment. Anyone with a reasoning mind can hesitate here.
The fossil fuel industry, with its companies and lobbies, not only harm our planet by producing greenhouse gas emissions that create climate change. They also breed bad blood infecting democratic systems by using corrupt practises, bribery and tax evasion to accomplish their goals, ultimately affecting our governments.
Across Africa, the impact these damaging lobbies are as abysmal as coal pits. From South Africa to Libya and from Nigeria to Uganda, there are rising worries that African heads of states’ tough grips on power is akin to the prospects about the mineral wealth in their respective countries, a feeling that has not spared Uganda as regarding President Yoweri Museveni’s 30 year old regime.
Newspapers recently quoted the president say: “You hear people say ‘Museveni should go’, but go and leave oil money,” at a campaign rally in eastern Uganda. The same source says Museveni’s obsession with the country’s largely untapped oil reserves will either prove a benefit or a curse to Uganda. But experience shows that a curse is inevitable.
Talk of the devil, to start with, already there has been perilous court turmoil over oil firm contracts and negotiations on building a refinery. Oil and gas was discovered way back in 2006, around the same time as Ghana, which started production in 2010. Uganda is expected to start its pumping hers in 2018.
Even darker, these resource agreements are shrouded in secrecy, keeping millions of Ugandans in the dark about events in the sector. A group of civil society organisations – including ActionAid Uganda, Global Rights Alert, Seatini, Advocates coalition for development and Environmental Transparency International Uganda – has launched an online petition urging president Museveni to make the extractives sector more transparent but the outcomes are still disappointing.
“Winfred Ngambiirwe, the executive director of Global Rights Alert told journalists in Kampala: “We would also like government to make a binding commitment by agreeing to take tangible steps to better involve the citizens in the development of oil and gas sector.”
While many Ugandans are pinning their hopes for a better life on the fledgling industry and oil is expected to earn the country more than $3bn annually for close to two decades once production begins, our hopes may be a waste. But damages including climate change, health hazards, corruption and possibilities of wars in the oil rich region are even heavier and disheartening than the expected revenues by all measures.
The climax of such a “tragedy of endowment” – as development economists of Makerere University call will be reached when truths begins to unfold as trickling oil money is diverted by the further military ambitions of the future leader and strengthening their arsenals rather than focusing on pursing the economic and social welfare of the public.
Again, everyone should be wary because fossil lobby has known for years of the existence and potential damage of climate change and has never acted accordingly. An investigation from last year showed how Exxon Mobil knew about climate change as early as 1977, but this did not prevent the company from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformation.
Furthermore, they fund climate change denial through big foundations and organisations, and promote solutions that are in line with their corporate interests, but many times not enough to preserve the planet.
In 2015, a study proved that ExxonMobil and Kochs family are the key actors who funded the creation of climate disinformation think tanks and ensured the prolific spread of their doubt products throughout mainstream media and public discourse. For many years, anonymous billionaires donated lumpsum valued at $120m to more than 100 anti-climate groups working to discredit climate change science.
Thus, for a developing country neither free from the dangers of climate change nor safe from kleptomaniac political systems as Uganda, the people should demand accountability now and during production. Doing so, we are clearing the path of development off unaccountable governments, but above all, protecting our ecosystems against the harms of fossil fuel industry and block the rise of oil-greedy governments.
This article has been written by Boaz Opio, Climate Change Campaigner Kampala Uganda