In the wake of downgrading the 50-year old Hilton Addis Hotel to four-stars recently, Hilton Worldwide has brought a new brand to Ethiopia in partnership with Sunshine Business Plc.
It is only the second move by the Hilton to open an operation in Ethiopia since the Hilton Addis Hotel opened in 1964.
The latest agreement is for Hilton Hawassa Resort & Spa, which is scheduled to open for service in five years. Signing the franchise agreement were Samuel Tafesse, president of Sunshine Investment Group and Patrick Fitzgibbon, senior vice president of Hilton Worldwide for Development for Europe & Africa.
“With a strong legacy of hospitality in Ethiopia, Hilton Hawassa Resort & Spa will join Hilton Addis Abeba in offering world-renowned service in this rapidly evolving part of the country,” said Fitzgibbon.
The lakeside city of Hawassa, with a population of a little over 150,000, is the seat of the southern regional administration. Located 276Km south of Addis Abeba, a 55 million dollar project is underway to provide the city with an airport by 2018. An international standard stadium is also under construction.
“The future is bright for travellers to southern Ethiopia,” Fitzgibbon acknowledged. “We are delighted to be making this announcement here where we are also celebrating the milestone of 20,000 Hilton rooms open or under development across Africa.”
This was a deal which Sunshine had first proposed to Marriott. But Marriott declined the offer on strategic grounds. They did not have any plans to venture into resorts in Africa at the moment, they told Sunshine, causing the latter to look for another partner, according to Samuel.
The same afternoon that Samuel inked the deal with the Hilton, he also inaugurated the Marriott Executive Apartments Addis Abeba at Mesqel Square. The guest of honour officially opening the facility on September 30, 2015, was President Mulatu Teshome (PhD). It took five years and 45.5 million dollars to complete the hotel, which Marriott said was its first executive brand in sub-Saharan African. Samuel and Kyriakides also signed an expansion agreement on Marriott’s flagship Courtyard development project currently being undertaken by Sunshine Business, shifting it into a five star international hotel.
The apartment hotel appeals to both business and family travellers with 108 fully serviced apartments offering space, ambience and the privacy of residential living enabling a comfortable stay away from home.
The property in Hawassa is projected to cost 42 million dollars, to be developed on a 30,000sqm, on the banks Lake Hawassa. It will incorporate 169 rooms and villas, with an outdoor swimming pool and spa complex. It will have four dining options, including a special restaurant and pool bar and grill, and feature extensive meetings and events space, with more than 1,000sqm of ballroom and pre-function area, as well as six conference halls.
“We will exert every effort to make the lakeside town a major tourist destination,” Samuel said.
Mayor of Hawassa, Yonas Yoseph, during a telephone interview with Fortune said that he was very happy about this big achievement on the side of the young city of only 55 years. He also told Fortune that the airport will be ready for use by the end of this fiscal year.
According to the mayor, the city was never informed of the change in name from Marriott to Hilton, which requires some administrative adjustments in the documents and licence. However, he continued, this is far down on the list of challenges for the city and the investor to accommodate the change.
We have given the investor land of their choice, swift process and a negotiated lower lease price.
Hawassa has about 14 large hotels, including South Star International, Haile Resort, Gezahegn and Elfinesh Hotels & Resort.