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When Kigali Marriott Hotel opens its doors to business next October, Rwanda’s hospitality industry will write a new chapter with an addition of 251 new five-star rooms.

This is a long stride in the right di­rection because Rwanda needs a mini­mum of 1,000 rooms in five-star facili­ties in order to compete favorably for the lucrative conference tourism in the region.

Only Kigali Serena and Nyungwe Forest Lodges currently have such facilities with a combined capacity of just about 200 rooms.

There are 370 registered hotels with 6,700 rooms across the country, but only 31 are graded. The national target is 10,000 rooms by 2019.

According to Solomon Adede, depu­ty CEO of New Century Development, company that obtained a 30-year deal to build and manage a Marriott hotel in Kigali, 300 new jobs will immedi­ately be created when the hotel opens.

Adede told The Rwanda Focus that in a bid to maintain its five-star stan­dards provided by Marriott hotels elsewhere, Rwandans who will get the chance to be employed by the ho­tel will undergo special professional training. The training will take place in Marriott’s training facilities.

“A degree in hospitality doesn’t nec­essarily make you a professional hote­lier, the reason why college business graduates have to undertake a profes­sional course to become certified ac­countants,” said Adede.

To that effect, the hotel has already begun investing in human resource with at least 20 graduates from the Akilah Institute for women, a col­lege that imparts young women with skills, have already been recruited by the hotel. The women will under­go a one-year professional training course in Marriott training centers in the United Arab Emirates and Oman. They will study food & beverages, fi­nance & human resources and front office management before returning to Rwanda to open Marriot’s first ho­tel in the region.

“We are talking about a hotel that will set standards and lead, to be fol­lowed by others,” said Adede.

While NCD which specializes in managing construction and hospi­tality projects obtained the manage­ment deal of the Kigali Marriott ho­tel, the Marriott international owners remained with full supervisory role to ensure that the hotel fully adheres to the exact standards of all Marriott fa­cilities in the world.

Marriott has about 3,700 properties in over 73 countries around the world.

“Everything done here by NCD has to be approved by Marriott Interna­tional to maintain the reputation of the brand worldwide,” he added.

There is also an understanding between Marriott and the Rwanda Tourism University College to pro­vide more graduates who will also be groomed by the hotel to make part of the future workforce.

The Akilah Institute’s graduates, now undergoing training in Dubai and Oman, will also become trainers once they are back in the country–an opportunity that will provide them with a strong foundation to pursue successful hotel careers at top level.

Marriott will also run the first pro­fessional training school in Rwanda that will not only provide specialized training to its staff but also offer com­mercial training services to those who might qualify to undertake a course there.

 “A degree in hospitality doesn’t necessarily make you a professional hotelier, the reason why college business graduates have to undertake a professional course to become certified accountants,” said Adede.

This is a grand opportunity for Rwanda, whose main problem is the limited number of properly trained personnel to manage hotels, to build capacity in this area.

A tour around Kigali’s leading ho­tels would immediately reveal that foreigners, mostly Kenyans, dominate top managerial positions. This is not because there is a deliberate plot not to employ Rwandans, but it is because there are simply few skilled Rwandans to take up such positions.

At a recent Ministry of Trade func­tion several guests were heard mur­muring during lunch after they were served by a white chef. Some expressed shock at the fact that Rwandans can’t even cook well and hotels have to re­sort to hiring white expatriates whose salary cheques are in thousands of dol­lars per month when a local employee would be happy with $500.

The Marriott hotel training school will have a major regional significance in that Rwandans will have a real and close facility to give them training of international standards enabling them to work anywhere in the world.

“This means there will be less need for foreign expatriates in Rwanda and Rwanda will also become an interna­tional centre for training hotel profes­sionals,” remarked Adede.

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