First in 90 years
The Marriott Hotel in Rwanda brings the signature brand’s welcoming service and world-class amenities to sub-Saharan Africa for the first time in its nearly 90-year history.
The 254-room Marriott in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, is creating approximately 500 jobs and will be among the country’s biggest and most luxurious properties, further enhancing Kigali’s reputation as a hub for conferences and conventions. The hotel will offer world-class meeting spaces with modern amenities to cater to the demands of this rapidly growing market.
Highlighting the importance of hospitality’s role in Rwanda, the World Travel & Tourism Council says Rwanda’s travel and tourism industry generated 7.1 percent of the country’s GDP in 2015 and predicts it to rise at 4.1 percent annually through 2025. Known as the Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda is becoming a popular destination for meetings and tourism.
Marriott has been working with community-based organizations to help staff the hotel and supply it with locally produced goods, underscoring Rwanda’s goal of building up its core industries including tourism and agriculture.
According to one story, the hotel has partnered with the Akilah Institute for Women to recruit and train Rwandan women for supervisory positions.
The Akilah Institute is an academy that enables young women from Rwanda and other East African countries to achieve economic independence with market-relevant education and training.
Marriott International has invited nearly 40 Akilah graduates to work and train in Marriott hotels in Africa and the Middle East.
After receiving on-the-job skills and leadership training, the first wave of graduates have returned to Rwanda to join the management team at the Kigali Marriott where they will help welcome guests from the around the world.
“Marriott’s placement of our graduates at the managerial level and beyond exemplifies our mission to enable women not just to find jobs, but to develop their careers with a globally respected brand and community,” says Elizabeth Dearborn Hughes, Co-Founder & CEO, Akilah Institute.
Marriott International has also been working with Women for Women International and the Relationship Coffee Institute, both of which are supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, one of the largest investors in the region. The local Women for Women Opportunity Center is equipping Rwandan women with the skills needed to apply for entry-level hotel positions or to supply the hotel with goods such as baskets, cheese and honey. The hotel has hired more than 25 women from the training center.
The Relationship Coffee Institute provides women with a new marketplace for locally sourced premium coffee, including the hotel. The Kigali Marriott’s Question Café serves the locally sourced coffee, grown by local smallholder farmers and served by graduates of this economic development training program.
“The opening of this Marriott hotel is providing long anticipated market activity for Rwandan women. Their café in the hotel provides the global business community with a perfect example of how business, philanthropy and government can work together to improve people’s lives,” said Patricia E. Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Beyond coffee, the Kigali Marriott is weaving in an array of local goods throughout the property, including in the retail store and on menus. The hotel sources locally grown products such as beef, poultry and produce, and incorporates more sustainable materials to ultimately help reduce the hotel’s overall footprint.
The opening of the hotel came a little over a week after Marriott International completed its acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts. The transaction created the world’s largest hotel company, with Marriott International operating or franchising more than 5,700 properties and 1.1 million rooms, in over 110 countries. With the completion of the acquisition, Marriott’s distribution more than doubled in the Middle East and Africa combined.
The company expects to add properties to Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa and to Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya. Other countries of interest are Mozambique and Ghana.
The entry into Rwanda is not the first time Marriott has made a bold move into the African market. In 2013, Marriott purchased Protea Hospitality Holdings Ltd., one of the largest hotel companies on the continent that is based in South Africa. Protea Hotels by Marriott will continue to operate in conjunction with other Marriott brands.