Op-Ed: On Bringing Brand Name Hotels to Ethiopia 

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By Samuel Getachew

Inside the headquarters of Ozzie Business and Hospitality Group, an office that is as small as an ordinary studio apartment in Bole, the exclusive neighbourhoods of Addis Ababa, Kumeneger Teketel is multitasking. He is seated comfortably in an office facing the magnificent landmark Bole Medhanealem Church with a view of the capital that is fast becoming a hub of skyscrapers. He is answering his phone that is ringing regularly, signing checks, mentoring young people who have come to have an audience with him and inquiring about the fresh-cut flower he sent to the mother of a colleague.

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There are artefacts on his wall from the countries he has visited, many beautiful African artefacts and a portrait of him with the president of Ethiopia that is placed prominently in front of him and of others. He has had little sleep all week but then again, he rarely sleeps these days. He has become a pioneer in the local hotel industry where leading actors want to consult and be friends with him.

Green accredited conference destination in Ghana

Earlier in the week, he was in Accra, Ghana signing an agreement with the Ghana Tourism Authority to have his signature hotel and restaurant show in the West African nation. That was mere days before he was to announce a new milestone conference and spa resort in Bishoftu named Adulita Conference and Spa Resort Hotel PLC, with Carlson Rezidor Group, which will have 152 rooms, with all the facilities of international standard rooms, brand name international restaurants, and a luxury spa that will be managed by an international brand expected to be a colossal conference centre.

“The hotel is being designed as a green accredited conference and wellness destination resort hotel with a botanical environment which will attract local and international Meetings, Incentives, Conference and Exhibitions  (MICE) and leisure travellers,” Sami Getachew, the CEO of Adulita told a press conference earlier this week. “It will be worth 800 million birr and transform the city to a sought-after tourist and conference destination which will directly benefit the already existing hotels and other businesses in accordance with the city administration’s policy”.

The dream is to make Bishoftu a conference destination hub, as Ozzie is focused on MICE hotel projects as a strategy to boost travel business in Ethiopia. Kumeneger said that has been the real motivation and what he wants to be his legacy as a pioneer in the industry.

Since he ventured into the business seven years ago, the local hotel industry has changed. Not long ago, the Hilton, where he started his career was some of the landmark hotels in the nation. That is changing. That was until the Sheraton opened shop and became, perhaps the only international standard hotel in the country. He was said to be one to accept that was the best Ethiopia can accomplish as an important country in the region, still one with one of the fastest growing economies.

 Ambition to be a player in Ethiopia

He started a three-day hospitality trade annual fair in 2013, followed by MICE (Meeting, Incentives, Conference and Exhibition East Africa Forum and Expo. It has been a boom.

At the beginning, many were sceptical about his vision but he made an impression with his ethics, success in grouping players and his hard work. He sounded a lofty dream, but one that was desperately needed if Ethiopia was to be a tourist destination for the world. He knew Ethiopia was changing and he wanted to be a player. For him, it no longer sounded reasonable to have lower standard hotels; those with several rooms that call themselves as hotels.

He wanted to push for a new standard within the local hotel industry. He created the space for him to be heard. The government took notice of his efforts and dispatched its Minister of Tourism when he hosted his first conference that was seen as an endorsement of what was happening. The government was looking to lure foreign investments to the country and he was ready to help them reach there.

His first conference, held at the United Nations Conference Center, since moved to the Millennium Hall, had many people attending and about a hundred brands represented. The following year, the attendance grew and he became instrumental in the signing of deals and a new phenomenon was started.

Travelling the road to success

With an undergraduate degree in Finance and LLB from the Addis Ababa University and MBA from Lincoln University from the United States, the self-made man from Wenji, Oromia Regional State, was fast becoming a person-to-watch. He was able to convince a slew of brands to come to Ethiopia, including the Radisson Blu, Movenpick Hotels and Resorts, Bon Hotel Addis, the Golden Tulip which is constructing a second hub in Adama, Park Inn by Radisson, Dusti Thani, which will be the biggest resort in East Africa. He became a person easy to underestimate but hard to ignore.

He has consulted and advised a number of nations, including most recently Ghana, where in 2018; he will launch his MICE conference there. For him, that will be a chance to embrace his pan-African dream — promoting entrepreneurship that will change the reality of his society. He seems certain that is a vision to behold and something to emulate all across the continent.

“We are an Ethiopian firm and we are aiming to be the hub for the hospitality business and to advance across the continent,” he said. “The success in attracting all these industry players (in Ethiopia) sends a clear signal that suggests launching such a constant platform (across Africa) is an essential element to integrate Ethiopia in the international arena.”

“My passion is to bring my country to the MICE map and transform the MICE destination across Africa,” he added followed by a firm, hand-shake like smile coming from a man that is certainly one-to-watch.

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