How Online Booking Is Helping Hotel Business In Uganda

The Internet has caused massive change in the hotel industry, Greg Petzer, General Manager, Speke Resort Munyonyo reveals, explaining that new technologies, new competitors and newly empowered customers have fundamentally altered the face of the hotel business.

He however says that this massive change also bring opportunity, a pronouncement Dhaval Machhar, the General Manager of Forest Cottages, agrees with. “In last five years internet has played extremely dramatic role in business growth of Hotel industry globally and in Uganda,” Machhar confesses.

“Almost each & every traveler is engaged in any short online search before they go for either official tour or for leisure,” Machhar adds. Petzer further explains that with internet a hotelier can control the information ‘you publish and distribute to most booking channels’.

“With the right information shared across all distribution channels you have limitless ways to know your customers better, coordinate their requests, anticipate their needs, develop appealing promotions and improve service,” Petzer says.

Hoteliers talked to for this article said the use of internet is driving direct online bookings, which is a positive for the industry. Petzer explains that hoteliers in Uganda are equally catching up with the trend.

Petzer says: “Hotels have adopted online booking to make it easy and attractive for international travelers. Many customers from Europe, United States and Asia have gone digital. E-commerce has many uses in business, including in the tourism industry.

“In an increasingly competitive market place, tourism products require an effective distribution strategy for a firm to reach its target tourists and local markets. E-commerce mainly helps in the generation of leads, presenting information about the tourism product to the customers and facilitating the transaction process electronically using the World Wide Web.

“The Internet is here to stay, and many businesses have made their first leap to the Internet with a web site, and many are now moving forwards using the Internet, not only as an advertising and promotion platform, but as an active business platform,”

The internet, according to people in the hotel business gives them a ‘24/7’ platform to receive reservations which are commission free. The internet also reduces workload and as Petzer says ‘it’s simply good customer service’. The option of online payment eases transactions.

Machhar however cautions that cybercrime is on high nowadays, ‘so all guests should take care when using credit cards online’ because ‘you need to make sure you are using secure payment gateway’.

Petzer advises that ‘if you decide to use a third-party site, choose a well-known and reputable brand’. “Get recommendations for trusted travel companies or sites from your network of friends and family,” he advises.

“Use a credit card instead of a debit card to book online. In case the website is phony, you won’t have given the cybercriminals direct access to your bank account. Many credit card companies offer fraud protection,” Petzer further advises.

 He says that upon completion of the transaction and reservation ‘always call the company afterward to confirm’. “If there is no record of your reservation, it’s better to know sooner rather than later. You’ll be able to alert your credit card company, report the fraud, and still have time to book reservations with the real deal,”

Asked what factors consumer considers when choosing a hotel online, Petzer explained that description of the hotel, online ratings and reviews, social media presence and content of hotel website are key.

“Our online customers do choose us because of positive guest reviews, budget rates, safari style accommodation with comfortable facilities and of course the forest.” Machhar of Forest Cottage explained.

“Forest cottages is the only place in the heart of Kampala where you can feel like you are somewhere up country. You don’t feel like you are in Kampala. Our place is like a real tropical forest - lush green full of nature. Till date we have spotted more than 25 spices of birds at forest cottages and grows 9 different type of fruits in our forest.”

Make An Entry Into Uganda Tourism Sector With This Degree Training

There is renewed focus directed at reinvigorating Uganda’s tourism industry. These efforts have in the past few years received enormous backing from both government and the private sector. Some people have started harvesting.

However, amidst this hope, one disadvantage stands in the way of Ugandans intending to work in the country’s tourism industry – the lack of necessary education and training. This lack of know-how and skills to work in the industry has seen Ugandans lose jobs to Kenyans.

This skills gap has woken up regulators and high learning institutions to start training Ugandans. Uganda Tourism Board has on different occasions called on private sector players who are the helm of the industry as service providers to improve on their skills through training; training institutions are heeding to this call.

Victoria University, a private university in Kampala, is inviting interested students to apply for the three year Bachelor of Tourism and Hotel Management ahead of their August intake. The course covers a wide range of topics in the tourism sector.

All one needs to qualify for this course is Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education or its equivalent with two principle passes obtained at same sitting or a Diploma in Tourism and Hotel Management or in related course from recognized institution.

“This course welcomes students into the exciting and diverse hospitality and tourism industry. While providing an understanding of the scope and complexity of the industry, the course covers key hospitality issues, management definitions.” Abdul Kalanzi, marketing and recruitment specialist at Victoria University, said.

He elaborated that students after graduating can build careers and work in restaurants, hotels, beverages operations, casinos, theme venues, entertainment centers, cruise lines, and countless other hospitality and tourism business.

Tourism in Uganda is a major driver of employment, investment and foreign exchange, contributing trillions of Ugandan Shillings to country's coffers. Tourism can be used to fight poverty in Uganda.

Tourist attractions in Uganda include national game parks, game reserves, traditional sites, natural tropical forests. Traditional occasions like Mbalu in eastern Uganda, boat riding, waterfalls etc.

Speke Resort Munyonyo In Fresh Weekend Offers

Luxury hoteliers’ Speke Resort - Munyonyo and Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort owned Speke Group of Hotels recently announced special Weekend Packages on bed & breakfast basis as a commitment to offer best competitive rates along with quality services to guests.

Ajit Singh, Rooms Division Manager, Speke / Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort revealed that this package gives clients more options to choose from and pay less. “At Speke Resort we are committed to offering best competitive rates along with quality services to our valuable guests,” he said upon unveiling the new packages.

“We have come up with a special Weekend Package on bed & breakfast basis in addition to our existing full board basis weekend package rates, giving you more options to choose from and pay less by selecting the option that suites you best as per your requirements.” He added in an email revelation which was shared with customers.

According to Singh, all resident guests are entitled to free usage of Gym, Swimming pool, Steam & Sauna. The Weekend package rates include 30 minutes boat & 10 Minutes pony ride. Use of Gym, Swimming, and Steam & Sauna is free of charge for all our residents.

While Extra person or child in the room (Speke Resort) will be charged US$ 35 per night on bed & breakfast with an extra mattress and US$ 68 per night for Full Board.  Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort doesnt provide extra mattresses.

Protecting Environment Is A Matter Of Life And Death, Says Museveni

President Yoweri Museveni emphasized that protecting the environment is a matter of life and death for humanity cautioning that ‘we must do all it takes to protect the environment lest we perish.’ The president was speaking as guest of honor during World Environment Day celebrations in Ibanda District on Monday.

“All those interfering with nature are doing a great disservice to themselves and will ultimately pay a heavy price. God created for us a wonderful environment to live in but by degrading it, we are going against his will. Water is our life and we should not interfere with anything to do with water or the environment.

“We have not had enough rains for the last two seasons in Uganda and experts attribute it to the attack on the environment by people who invaded wetlands, forests, lakes and rivers that contribute 40% of the rains we get and we can’t go on like that,” he added.

The President, therefore, said that government is soon amending and strengthening the environment protection law to ensure that nobody should do any activity in a radius of 50 meters from a river bank, 200 meters from a lake shore and advised all people living or practicing agriculture in wetlands and forestry reserves, to leave them peacefully.

Important for tourism

Museveni further said that protecting the environment is also important for tourism noting that the sector earns the country much more foreign exchange than most economic activities the country is engaged in.

The President, who described the environment as the genetic bank, appealed to all citizens of Uganda to prioritize environmental protection for the good of the current and future generations. He emphasized that they ought treat whoever is attacking the environment as their number one enemy.

Rain catchment areas

The Minister of Water and Environment, Sam Cheptoris, said that wetlands, forests and water bodies are important rain catchment areas and that whoever attacked them in a country like Uganda that is largely agricultural and dependent on rainfall, must be resisted.

On behalf of the United Nations, the United Nations Development Program Country Director, Ms. Rosa Malanga, said that humanity must find ways of connecting with nature, protect it, respect it and safeguard the world heritage. She commended Uganda for being one of the few countries that have put in place a legal framework to protect the environment.

The French Ambassador to Uganda, Ms. Stephanie Rivoal, noted that humanity shares the same planet and there must be a collective duty to protect it selfishly for the sake of the future generations.

She said that the planet belongs to nobody but to everybody and it is, therefore, a duty of everybody to ensure that it is safe for humanity. She appealed to developed countries who contributed greatly to climate change to take a leading role in mitigating the causes of climate change.

Environmentalists Run For Trees In Ibanda

On Sunday, 4th June, thousands of environment protectionists thronged Ibanda, western Uganda, to take part in The 2017 Environment Run which was a precursor to Monday’s World Environment Day celebrations. This year's World Environment Day theme is "Connect with Nature".

The 2017 Environment Run, under the theme ‘Run for Trees’ was organized by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green, Eskom Uganda, Hima Cement among other partners. It attracted all calibers of participants who also planted trees as a gesture of their commitment to protect the environment.  

State Minister for Environment Hon Kitutu Kimono, on Thursday flagged off the World Environment Day Celebration Caravan at the NEMA offices in Kampala. The team carried out a number of activities which included planting trees in schools and various other strategic locations. The ‘caravan’ cleaned Ibanda town on Saturday a day before the historic Sunday run.

The caravan was embraced by NEMA officials, the Woman Member of Parliament (MP) for    Ibanda Hon Jovin Kaliisa and other district officials, a team from Uganda Little Hands Go Green led by CEO Joseph Masembe, pupils and student from different schools and the local people. The activities created awareness and set a precedent. 

“A wise man will always plant a tree whose shade he knows he will never sit under,” Joseph Masembe explained why it is important for people to plant trees and ensure a humane environment in the future.

“We owe it to our children and grand children to deliver to them a green inheritance.” He added, emphasizing the need to protect the environment because the future needs a habitable environment. Uganda joins the world on Monday to commemorate World Environment Day.

Photos: Little Hands Go Green, NEMA Set Pace For Environment Day Celebrations

This year’s environment day celebrations have picked momentum in Ibanda district, Western Uganda. This year's World Environment Day theme is "Connect with Nature". Environment concerns are getting global attention with a motive to protect Mother Nature.

State Minister for Environment Hon Kitutu Kimono, the Executive Director (ED) of National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), the Woman Member of Parliament (MP) for    Ibanda Hon Jovin  Kaliisa and the CEO Little Hands Go Green Joseph Masembe flagged off the World Environment Day Celebration Caravan at the NEMA offices in Kampala.

The team that set off on Thursday, including school children, planted trees in different areas on their way to Ibanda as part of the drive to create climate change awareness. The team has planted trees in Mpigi, and Buwama and Nkozi enroute to Ibanda. Various schools have joined the noble cause.

Below in pictures we bring you highlights some from different activities being undertaken by stakeholders ahead of environment day celebrations on 5th June.

Sheraton Begins Ramadan With A Corporate Dinner

Sheraton Kampala Hotel hosted their Muslim clients to a mouthwatering dinner as a kick off to the month of Ramadan.The dinner was held to thank the Muslims for the continued support to the hotel and to also wish them a fruitful fasting period.

The diner was attended by clients from various organizations and industries with a guest profile ranging from managers, ambassadors, business people, media personalities to mention but a few together with their spouses. A wide spread of food and soft drinks were served to the guests.

The guests were first ushered in to separate dedicated rooms for prayers and the guests then proceeded to the main dining area to break their fast for the day.

“During this Ramadan season, Sheraton has prepared special menus customized to the preference of our clients and a special prayer place to relieve our customers from the stress of where to pray from and break their fast.

We shall also have a designated corner for Iftar every day at Paradise restaurant. We wish all our Muslim clients a fruitful and successful Ramadan and may Allah grant them all their wishes. “commented Mr. Jean Philippe Bittencourt.

He also added that In the coming days we shall also hold a very special Iftar Dinner for about 400 Muslim children from disadvantaged backgrounds – this being one of our CSR initiatives and a way for the Hotel to give back to society.”


NFA Under Fire Over Illegal Logging In Bugoma Forest

By George Busiinge

The National Forestry Authority (NFA) has come under fire from the communities neighboring Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in Hoima district for abetting illegal lumbering. Residents accuse NFA officials for laxity, which has fueled the illegal timber trade and charcoal burning within the forest. 

They expressed their concern during a two day collaborative meeting organized by the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) held at Kabwoya sub county headquarters  in Hoima.  Annet Agaba, a tree planting coordinator for Kidoma Conservation Development Association told the meeting that NFA officials don't respond to calls when residents notify them about the activities of illegal loggers. 

She explains that when the Community Forest Management groups entered partnership with NFA, the Bugoma forest was in a very good shape, but the laxity of NFA officials has fueled lumbering. Charles Byamuleme, a resident of Kyangwali Sub County accuses NFA especially the forest supervisors and police personally deployed to guard the forest for conniving with illegal loggers to cut down trees. 

Stuart Maniraguha, the Budongo Range Manager, said the issue of illegal lumbering involves both residents and community members. 
He said they are strengthening partnerships with communities and other stakeholders to ensure the reserve is protected and free from illegal activities. 

Joan Akiza from National Association of Professional Environmentalists -NAPE called upon all the stakeholders to work together in order to prevent the cutting of timbers and charcool in Bugoma forest and promised total support as NAPE . 


Wildlife Conflict Resilience Fund Launched

The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) Uganda for wildlife research, education and conservation, a Canadian Non-Government Organization (NGO) has launched 18 months project codenamed Human Wildlife Conflict Resilience Fund. 

The project is aimed at enhancing community resilience to losses from wild incursions through the development of local and regional compensation scheme that is anchored on community driven and financing mechanism. 

The project was launched by the principal assistant secretary (PAS) Masindi district local government, Richard Kiiza who represented his boss the chief administrative officer, Mark Tivu at Hotel Aribas in Masindi town on 17th May 2017.  

While addressing stakeholders during a function to launch the project, Umar Tumwine, the Education Programs Manager with JGI said that, the project is being piloted in villages of Kasongoire parish, Budongo Sub County in Masindi district. The villages include Kisagura, Kasongoire, Nyakyeju, Waipacu, Bulyango, Kiryamyongo, Kimanya and Kyabijwenge.

He disclosed that, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Uganda Biodiversity Fund (UBF) is funding the project that will be implemented by the JGI, Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust, The environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda (ECOTRUST) together with Kasongoire Community Development Association (KACODA).

According to Tumwine, JGI has already carried out sensitization meeting at schools for pupils and with parents in villages to educate them on how they can respond whenever they meet chimpanzees. 

Dr. Joshua Rukundo, the conservation programs director with Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust noted that, currently, in Uganda there is no law that compels UWA, the custodian of wildlife to compensate people for the losses of lives and property as a result of incursion by apes.

Rukundo said the project is trying to develop some kind of compensation money that will be contributed by partners in the country like government agencies, private companies including plantation farms, banks, local governments, Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) and NGOs.

E- Commerce Works Like A Fertilizer In Hotel Industry – Forest Cottages Boss

Economies in developing countries like Uganda are embracing e-commerce now that internet is increasingly becoming available. Internet and ICTs have made trade, communication, traveling easy and punctual.

Hoteliers in Uganda are equally catching up with the trend. Their customers, many of whom come from Europe, United States, Asia have gone digital. Hotels have adopted online booking to make it easy and attractive for international travelers.  

In this spirit, Forest Cottages located at Plot 17/18, Naguru Hill, Bukoto, kampala is using the internet to lure and enable their customers to book for accommodation, conferencing rooms and other facilities provided at the hotel. The hotel is a providing a 15% discount to customers who book online.

In this interview, Dhaval Macchar, the General Manager of Forest Cottages, speaks to this news website elaborating how the internet is softening their operations especially on the side of enabling customers access their services with just a click of a few buttons.  Read on.  

In what way has the internet revolution empowered business growth for hotels?

In last 5 Years Internet has played an extremely dramatic role in business growth of Hotel industry globally and in Uganda.  Almost each & every traveler is engaged in any sort of online search before they go for either official tour or for leisure.

Online booking is emerging as an enabler in the hotel business, how is it boosting rooms’ occupancy and the entire hotel business in the hospitality industry?

As I said, every traveler is engaged in online search before traveling. Actually what happens is, by doing online hotel hunting, travelers get many options to compare with personal requirement, preference & budget.

While searching the right option as per these factors, Online Travel Agencies (OTA) like Jumia Travel, Expedia, to name a few help a lot. On these OTAs, travelers can see all the facility of the hotels.

Travelers can now check out a hotel’s facilities like different Restaurants, conference rooms and accommodation rooms, recreation and entertainment before booking and traveling. These factors help hotels to boosts the occupancy and revenue.

How do you see the future evolving with e-commerce in Uganda's tourism sector especially for hoteliers?

We can say future evolution of e-commerce is even more positive and going to be more competitive. We are in an era of e-business. People no longer move with lot of cash while traveling. Everything works online including bookings for accommodation, full conferencing facility, car hire, Tours  & Travel up to the Payments. So e- commerce works like a fertilizer in hotel industry.


What merits are associated with booking online for customers?

Before finalizing the choice of hotel, majority of guests are looking at several factors. Factors like budget, location, accessibility, security, facility and most important Guest Reviews. For example if the traveler’s budget per night is $80 and his or her official work is in Kololo, the guest will never book a hotel which is located on Entebbe road even if the hotel is under his budget.

Rather he or she will book in a hotel near Kololo with a combination of good reviews and a good budget match. He will get a hotel in Kololo and its surrounding areas like Bukoto. So the criterion of choosing a hotel has lot of factors connected.

What precautions would you point out for customers to consider?

Cyber crime is on high now days, so all the guests should take care when using credit cards online. You need to make sure you are using secure payment gateway while paying online.

From your experience, what informs an online customer to choose your Hotel?

Our online customers do choose us because of positive guest reviews, budget rates, safari style accommodation with comfortable facilities and of course the forest. Forest Cottages is the only place in the heart of Kampala where you can feel like you are somewhere up country. You don’t feel like you are in Kampala.

Our place is like a real tropical forest, lush green full of nature, till date we have spotted more than 25 spices of birds at forest cottages and grows 9 different type of fruits in our forest. There are many more reason to choose us

Why do consumers prefer booking online with travel agency or directly with the hotel?

Many customers do it to make sure their bookings are confirmed without any changes. There are many online travel agencies that are prepaid - where pay in advance, that way you are sure that your booking has been confirmed and will not be cancelled.

At the same time, some guests don’t want to go for prepaid booking and want to enjoy flexibility of duration of stay, mode of payment, free cancellations and the most important best rates. Such guests prefer to go for direct booking with hotel. And returning guests do prefer to go for direct hotel booking.

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