How Uganda Hotels Developed From Tent camps to 5-star hotels
he local hotel sector since 1998, when Uganda Hotels Limited was fully disbanded, greatly improved and boasts of some of the top hotels in the region.
Prior to this, all upper class hotel services were under Uganda Hotels. The group did not entertain mediocrity, in terms of services and equipment. The hotels’ shopping was done from the same source to ensure quality and the workers had special training.
“Everything was the same, the grades were up to standard,” said Eric Ndugwa, the last general manager of Uganda Hotels.
When Uganda hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November 2007, the country got an opportunity to market its diverse tourism potential such as the wildlife, the rare and endangered mountain gorillas and its culture.
The hosting of CHOGM enhanced the development of services sector, especially world-class infrastructure such as hotels, restaurants, conference facilities and roads. Magnificent hotels were built and the existing ones improved before the big event.
The services industry, which started in a modest way in the 1940s when the Protectorate government acquired Lake Victoria Hotel Entebbe to provide accommodation to travellers, airline crews and expatriates, has today grown into a huge and profitable business.
“Lake Victoria Hotel, which was the first big hotel acted as a gateway to Uganda,” explains Ndugwa.
In 1954, White Horse Inn in Kabale was acquired by the Government to accommodate its officials and tourists travelling to western Uganda.
Masindi Hotel, which was formally owned by the East African Railways and Harbours, was also taken over as a subsidiary of the Uganda Development Corporation.
On the other hand, national parks developed tent camps to meet the demand since Uganda had been earmarked as a top tourist destination. The colonial government later incorporated the tented camps into the chain of Uganda Hotels and developed them.
The tented camps within parks that were taken over are Mweya Safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Paraa in Murchison Falls National Park and Semiliki Game Reserve.
Between 1958 and 1960 Hotel Margarita in Kasese, Tropical Inn in Masaka, all the foreign-owned hotels. These were Grand Imperial, Speke, Equatorial Hotel, Silver Springs, Park, Fairway and Standard hotels. Others were Kampala Club, Mountains of the Moon and Rwenzori Tea in Fort Portal, Tree Shade and Agip Motel in Mbarara, and Traveller’s Inn in Kisoro.
Uganda Hotels also took over the management of Apollo Hotel (now Sheraton Hotel) and Nile Hotel (Kampala Serena Hotel), which were established under different Acts of Parliament. The company boasted of an experienced and dedicated team of managers who run the different units efficiently.
“Every hotel under the Uganda Hotels was sensitive to quality and used standard equipment,” says Ndugwa. He explains that there was no mediocrity then because their staff was given special training.
“Uganda Hotels recruited fresh graduates from Makerere University in Kampala. New employees were trained in-house for six months at the Uganda Hotels training wing and were later sent to Utali Training Institute in Nairobi, France, Italy, German, England or Denmark for further training,” he explains.
Crested Crane Hotel in Jinja, Mt Elgon Hotel in Mbale and Acholi Inn in Gulu were established. After independence, new hotels and lodges were built, including Mweya, Para and Chobe Safari lodges and Rock Hotel Tororo.
In the 1970s, the tourism industry was one of the major foreign exchange earner for the country. This compelled the Government to ensure availability of good and safe accommodation facilities throughout the country for its official duties and tourists. It sought the assistance from Denmark under the Danish Turn Key Hotel project, which built more hotels and lodges.
Five hotels and two lodges were built under the project and incorporated under the Uganda Hotels chain. They are Soroti, Lira, Mount Moroto, Hill Top in Kitgum and White Rhino in Arua, Semliki Lodge (Semliki Game Reserve) and Pakuba Safari Lodge (Murchison Fall National Park)
The lodges and hotels played a leading role in promoting tourism.
The New Vision Newspaper