Safety Precautions for Tourists Visiting Uganda

These are some personal security and safety tips for staying safe and secure in Uganda. Uganda is the safest countries in Africa. This country might even be safer than your country of origin most especially if you are on safari. You will find much information on various websites as regards how safe Uganda is for travel. The websites are outdated and don’t understand the current state in the pearl of Africa. This country is also one of the friendliest countries in Africa. There are no terrorist attacks in this Uganda.

You should never act lost even though you are actually lost. This might sound a bit funny but when you act and look lost, they make themselves very vulnerable and a great target to the thieves. In case you are lost, always a police officer or go into a shop and ask for the directions. The other option is to jump on a boda Boda Motorcycle Taxi and then have them take you to your final destination. These thieves also look in any town in Kampala for the people who seem lost, disoriented and in case you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. You can also ask the right people and you will be helped and be fine.

Always remember to keep your jewelry at home; take the inexpensive jewelry with you. The gold chains and the jewelry can be torn from you. Avoid the expensive watches and in case you are wearing one. Have one preferably with a leather strap bag that can be tightened and safely worn. Get chance to buy some of the local products and support the local artisan and their families and you will safe keep your expensive items at home and at the same time that makes a difference in Uganda through your purchase of the local hand crafted items.

Remember to keep your money out of sight; it’s better to carry your money in the front pocket where you can be able to put your hands over it and not in a back pack were it can easily be stolen. Don’t put on belted packs for money and valuables that are worn on the outside of your garments. Always don’t flash money, pull out what you need and pay and never carry large amounts with you. Leave the much money and the valuables in your hotel safe box.

Always don’t carry your passport on you. In case of anything, make a copy of it and leave the original in the hotel to be safe. In case you are going for the safari, keep all the things in a small back pack that you can easily carry with you. Even though you are going for the game drive, always carry the back pack with you.

Always protect your photographic equipments. Keep these in the bag and strap it to yourself. Ad when taking pictures, hold it with hands and roll strap around your hands so no one can take it from you. Never put the camera over the shoulder on a strap, the same with the binoculars if you should take them into town.

Protection of your mobile cell phone is so important; keep your mobile cell phone in your pocket and don’t carry it in your hands. In case you carry it in your hands, someone might tale a cigarette burn your hand and you drop the phone when pain strikes and its gone. Don’t put ii on the table in the restaurant or bar since again someone might just come and grab it. The mobile phones are stolen on a daily basis in Uganda so you need to hold it tightly. This is the most common thefts in the country. The smart phones are the most sought after by the thieves and they will steal them in a restaurant.

Mind yourself when walking at night; keep it to a minimum and its usually safe on a crowded street, and its best to be with a Ugandan or someone who knows the country and anyways. Don’t walk alone in most of the neighborhoods to be on the safe side.  It’s always not common to rob a visit in Uganda but it’s better to be wise and smart to avoid walking at night in a place, town that you don’t know.

About visiting the slums; the slums in Kampala happen to a place of misery and you can find a few people who wouldn’t have the best intentions in mind when it comes to dealing with you. Most of these people that live in the slum don’t like it but it’s due to the circumstances of life. Visiting these slums is not advised unless you are visiting a school, an NGO, a charitable organization like an orphanage.

About the gay travels in Uganda; recently the anti gay bill was passed and 97% of the Ugandans concurred with the decision. The country has been in the news for many years about the anti-gay bill and it had an impact on Uganda’s image in the world even though it is one of 38 African countries and over 80 worldwide with strong anti-gay laws. This also means that the guy people are welcome to Uganda as long as they keep the culture and traditions of the country up.

Any woman traveling on her own is quite safe and in Uganda, a no to some flirting by the men will usually stop any further irritations. You can be proposed to and take it as a compliment and a firm no thanks will work well. In case you travel with us, you will surely be safe as a women.

You need to use some common sense at times. Most times, you need to keep aware and watch each other. Always think if you would do what you want to do at home, then don’t do it here in Uganda. Also keep your guard up when on your own along with common sense. Many of the visitors love their time in Uganda and so will you, along with some practical common sense. Your basic natures will keep you safe and sound in Uganda, common sense can be your only guide.

The self-drive tours in Uganda; in case you want to rent a vehicle in Uganda and drive yourself, our great advice is you to forget it because Uganda has got the second highest accident rate in Africa. The country has got many international traffic laws, but the problem is that not everyone follows them this means that you leave the driving to professional guides who are used to these roads.

When using public transport; always avoid eating from the buses especially from the strangers since most of these are thieves. Even the US Embassy advises against taking food or drinks on bus. You are probably mush safer taking the roadside food being offered as the bus pulls over for the pits stops or the fuel. The buses are also involved in simply bad accidents in Uganda due to the high speeds that they travel at.

Having a night out in Kampala; going out in Kampala is usually safer and always keep your drink close to you and watch that no one puts something in it.  There are always incidents where people have been robbed after being drugged in a bar where they were enjoying from the night life in Kampala. The tourists in Uganda are much safer since tour companies put in much efforts in protecting them. You will also find much information on internet about the safety in Uganda.

5 Essential Tips to Successful Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

To many visitors, gorilla trekking in Uganda is not easy as compared to the activity done in the Virunga Region. This is largely due to the terrain. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is characterised with many hills and valleys. The hike to the gorillas involves several climbs and sloping! For those who are preparing to carry out a gorilla trek in Uganda, below are some of the vital points that apply.

Before the gorilla trek

There is only a maximum of only 8 people that are also allowed to visit a give group of the habituated gorillas per day. This also helps in reducing the exposure to human borne diseases. Also wash your hands before going into the forest to track the gorillas.

Along the way to tracking the gorillas.

As you are in the forest, keep your voices low so that you avoid scaring away the mountain gorillas and many other animal species. You shouldn’t leave rubbish in the forest, whether you come with into the forest should be carried back with you when you are leaving, the ranger will also be able to take you where the gorillas were the previous day and from here you will be able to follow the trail. Also as soon as you meet the gorillas, the guide will give you an alert to get ready for the activity.

When you are with the mountain gorillas.

You also keep a distance of about 7 to 9 m away from the gorillas so that to make them feel relaxed, when you face the gorillas, you must also stay in a group and always don’t stay alone in order to avoid risking, you also have to keep you voice down as you can but don’t fear of asking the guides questions you feel like, you are also not allowed to smoke, drink or eat when with the gorillas, this could also increase the risk of transmitting diseases.

You must follow the instructions of the guide when with the gorillas. When the gorillas charge, just squat down and then avoid looking directly into its eyes, you are also not supposed to use Flash camera when taking photos and remember to move slowly and carefully to avoid irritating the gorillas. You are also not allowed to touch the gorillas since they are wild animals, you are also only allowed 1 hour with the gorillas as you observe their behavior and taking the photos. You should also keep your voices down and 200m away from the gorillas.

The General health Rules:

Try to respect the time limit for the tourists to spend the mountain gorillas and this will also help in limiting the risk of transmitting the diseases, avoid going for the trek when sick, always keep a distance of about 7m from the gorillas, and you shouldn’t leave rubbish in the forest

Congo Gorilla Permit Discount Extended Through 2018

In the interest of tourists and all gorilla fans, one gorilla permit costs only $200 in low seasons giving back $200 to every tourist who chose to track gorillas in Congo. Gorilla permits in Congo cost $400 but are discounted from mid-March to mid may or Mid October–Mid November as a way of boosting gorilla tourism in the country. Congo is a home to both low land and mountain gorillas so the choice is yours to decide where to the trek and which type of gorillas to see. Congo gorilla safaris are the best for any one travelling on budget and Virunga National Park and Kahuzi Biega National park are always open for any one above fifteen years provided they have reserved their trekking gorilla permits a gate pass to the forested jungle home of gorillas. The Big thanks goes to the conservationists who protect and fight for the lives of the endangered primates.

If you are a big fun of gorillas why not reserve your gorilla permit earlier and experience the wonderful life of primates in the jungle, save big and carry home memories. Booking a Congo gorilla permit doesn’t need your presence; just dedicate all the responsibility to a tour agent in charge of your safari tour. One needs just 2-3 days to track gorillas in Congo in either Virunga National Park or Kahuzi Biega National Park. However, if you planning to track gorillas in Congo in any other month of the year, a gorilla permit costs only $400 dollars.

Congo Gorilla Safari Essentials

On top of that tracking gorillas in Congo requires a few essentials that make it worth for one to enter the country and enjoy his or her vacation without any inconveniences. Among these essentials is the Congo tourist Visa, Accommodation, transport and choosing a right travel agent.

Congo Tourist Visa

Every tourist to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) needs a tourist visa to enter the country. However, there are some must have visa requirements to qualify for a tourist visa in Congo. Gorilla trekking permit or volcano hiking permit, or a confirmed tour itinerary and accommodation booking. With all the above mention in place it’s very easy to secure a tourist visa in Congo. Once you have all your trip essentials booked with a confirmation of your payments, then you can proceed with online visa processing.

Trip Accommodation and Transport

When planning to track gorillas in Congo, better to choose among Rwanda Gisenyi accommodation because they are affordable and cost friendly and give visitors a chance to stay in a place in line with their budget as planned. Am not saying staying in Congo is bad but Congo accommodation facilities are limited and quite expensive compared to those in Rwanda. When you book a private gorilla safari to Congo, no need to worry about transport and accommodation because tour constants and experts organize it all.

Book Budget Gorilla Treks in Uganda from US$900

Uganda doesn’t have lots of mountains but the hilly vegetation of rain forests make it the best gorilla safari destination in the world. Though it shares mountain gorillas with Rwanda and Congo still Uganda has the highest population half of the entire population living on the planet with even appealing gorilla permit prices all year. Looking at holiday package prices, Uganda gorilla treks have value for money in every aspect, accommodation, gorilla permits and transport. Even in the peak season months Uganda gorilla permits cost only $600 dollars. The fact is that you book your gorilla safari tour with budget safari experts who have plenty of budget trip options including backpacking. Uganda serves as the best budget safari country in Africa so visitors find it cheap and affordable in all aspects. Those planning to track mountain gorillas on budget, you can only enjoy every moment of your stay and experience the best in either Mgahinga Gorilla National Park or Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Mgahinga Forest National Park

The most famous mountain gorilla park to see gorillas, golden monkeys and also hike the volcanoes. To the fit and experienced hikers this is your place to be because it offers too much beyond your imagination. The gorillas are wonderful and the way up towards them is a real experience. It’s a difficult trail for the sick and un fit though it’s something you wouldn’t have to miss on your trip to Uganda. The guides are excellent, and ensure that you have the most awesome gorilla trekking experience. Believing in what they are doing makes the trek more fantastic. Seeing the magnificent gorillas is an experience of life and spending an hour with them, watching their interactions with each other and with the silver backs is a dream comes true in just hour duration. The baby gorilla games around trees make it even more fun and priceless. However, would recommend an overnight stay in a lodge near the park entrance so that life is very easy as you get started.

Bwindi Forest National Park

The park is beautiful today, tomorrow and forever something that can’t fade out even after a number of years. So why not go gorilla trekking in Bwindi forest and have an amazing day seeing the fabulous mountain gorillas that live in all the four park sectors- Ruhija, Buhoma, Nkuringo and Rushaga. The gorillas look much bigger than all the other primates you might have seen in other wild conservation areas. Gorillas are not shy to be close to people and the big thanks goes to gorilla doctors and conservationists who dedicate time to habituate the primates. Still the guides and porters are great all the time making extremely amazing. During the trek, you will feel how guides love their job and every forest habitant that they come across giving enough memories even before the main day encounter. Bwindi Forest National Park is the best budget gorilla safari park with easy access, cheap accommodation, cost friendly permits and lots of things. However, the time is now to explore the beautiful protected areas of Bwindi and Mgahinga on a budget gorilla trek.

Why Road Trips In Uganda Are Not For Everyone

Uganda self Drive

When it comes to road trips in Uganda, the most challenging bit of it when you are required to make a plan on your own and getting that you are familiar with what is in Uganda. Whereas it is considered one of the best ways to explore this spectacular destination, it may not apply to all travelers as explained below;

Driving takes longer time

If you have ever traveled before in Uganda, you realize that most the protected areas where most tourists travel for their experiences are a bit far a part from Kampala city centre. This means you have to spend longer hours while driving on dusty or murram roads and the worst bit of it is when the car that are using is very slow. The best option for longer trips can be direct flights of which this can also be costly.

You have to plan everything on your own

When it comes to planning for a road trip in Uganda, it means you have to carry your own cross to make your journey successful. This involves planning which road to pass, transportation means-which car to use and hours to spend while driving. To some people, this can be simpler whereas other can find it very challenging.

You are required to park the vehicle

In most cases, it is easy to get parking space in big towns and this can be stressing for some people. In addition the high costs of parking also drive away people from taking a road trip and the whole journey totally won’t be that interesting.

The trips can be costly when it comes to road trips

For self drive trips specifically, a road trip may take nearly all the money and you remain with nothing for parking, meals, lodging and gas refilling.

The bad weather

There is nothing hurting compared to traveling in misty or foggy areas or muddy places after it has rained. Some areas can flood and you will really find it challenging to cross.

Wear and tear on car can also cost on you

The worst bit of a road trip is when the car breaks down while you are enjoying the ride and there is no mechanic in the nearest centre. This at times happens with older vehicles which tend to break down at anytime. Before renting a car in any car hire company make sure that you check or consider hiring vehicle that is a bit new and in better mechanical conditions otherwise you will incur a lot more while on road trip in Uganda.

Traveling by car isn’t that cheap

Not every means of transportation reach to every destination in Uganda for instance the taxis or the buses and if you opt for this, you can find it costly to connect up to the park where the actual adventure is conducted. As well, you may not be well versed with the area and finding the accommodation becomes a challenge. This means that you will need a travel with your camping gear which is simpler by car compared to bus or train.

Personal decision making

Whereas some people find it easier to make their own decisions, this may not apply to all as some people can easily run short of ideas. The most challenging areas when it comes to road trip is making a calculation for yourself and adding the travel costs prior making the final decision to destination of your choice.

In conclusion, before embarking on a road trip in Uganda, you need to first consider your interest in the destination as well as transportation choices. This can save you from the hassle of getting the best car to help you transverse in Uganda.

Greenwashing vs. Ecotourism

On the face of it, there is a big difference between green washing and ecotourism. However, that only goes for the obvious cases. Simply put, when a travel package, experience or accommodation is sold to you as eco-friendly, and it is not so, then it is green washing.

The eco label is not only by far the most popular, but also commercially successful. Synonymous labels include sustainable tourism, rural tourism and agro tourism.

Green washing is a term that refers to a marketing strategy of selling something on the basis of being environmentally friendly. The whole purpose of green washing is to make something appear to be more environmentally friendly than it really is. E.g. an original not so green product is taken and labelled, without any new effort to improve it by making it eco-friendly.

Considering the ecotourism quiz published earlier on this blog, it should be relatively easy to evaluate the level of green washing. There are 10 questions based on The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) principles. You’ll seldom get a venue that measures 10 out of 10. A rating of 1 to 4 out of 10 does not qualify something as ecotourism. For instance, many large hotels now make use of renewable energy. They may even apply the “3R” method – reduce, reuse, recycle – to managing their impact on the environment. If they do nothing else, it may not be total green washing, but you can only call it ecotourism to a lesser degree at best.

Uganda & Rwanda Tour Agencies Promoting Joint tourism in East Africa

The leading tourism board in Uganda officially known as the Uganda Tourism Board in line with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) plus other several apes companies hosted Rwanda tour agencies to the pearl of Africa with an agenda of making East Africa an entity and a single travel destination with an aim of expansion and well-being of the tourism industry.

The other importance of making East Africa a single travel destination is the use of a single tourist visa, it is quoted that at only one hundred USD ($100) tourist are mandated to move freely in both Uganda Rwanda and Kenya for three months regularly 90 days as the Visa is said to be valid.The east African tourism promotion is geared up under the Joint Tourism Marketing Committee strategized by the ground tour operators basically in this region under the Northern Corridor Infrastructure Project with Kigali Airport of Rwanda.

However, the pending joint programme of establishing the railway line that was far discussed by the Northern Corridor board members recently hosted in Kampala is an attempt for a dream come true for extending tourism to another level with favoring opportunity to East Africa integration system. Rwanda itself as a tourism destination is adjacent to south western part of Uganda with distinctive tourism attraction. This section that helps both Uganda and Rwanda in developing good safari itineraries has led to increase in a number of tourists for example travellers who opt for gorilla safari adventures in these two countries in the Virunga section.

The Virunga hosts three national parks; the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda and the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This familiarization trip in Uganda with the Rwanda tour operators was designed with a sweet ending whereby there are key attractions especially in the south-western Uganda that tour operators can’t leave without visiting and these include Queen Elizabeth National park for the mighty wildlife safari and launch cruise at the Kazinga Channel for lots of hippos, crocodiles, several bird species plus numerous wild animals like herds of buffaloes wallowing in mud due to luck of sweat glands in their bodies and lots of elephants feeding along the channel banks

There is much to admire in the pearl of Africa as by sir Winston Churchill, Uganda is one the three countries that are endowed with the gift of the rare mountain gorillas in the world, and taking a gorilla safari holiday in Bwindi national park is exceptional when you get to visit the giant apes in their habitats in different groups or families. Gorilla feed in troupes of almost 30 gorilla including babies and the juveniles, they are headed by a dominant alpha male called a silver back that is responsible for taking care or protecting the family from danger and external threats from the other groups, the alpha male is also responsible nests where by it allocates for who to make nests of that night and gorilla will only use a sleeping nest one and the next day it’s a duty of making other new nest.

its recorded that the number of the gorilla in both Uganda Rwanda and Congo has risen to 880 gorilla as of the recent gorilla census that was carried out in October 2015 and by virtue of view Bwindi Impenetrable National park is said to be having the leading number by 480 and the rest shared by the Virunga section that is Mgahinga in Uganda, Volcanoes in Rwanda and Virunga in Congo.
Entirely, you can go mountain climbing on mountain Rwenzori to reach the peak, crater lakes in fortpotal, classy beaches and islands on lake Victoria, do cultural tours in Uganda, birding in most of Uganda national parks especially Kibale Forest, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Semliki National Park and Kidepo national park white water rafting on Nile river and a city tour for cultural back grounds and the seven hills of Kampala.

Zimbabwe Tourism: African Sun Boss Shingi Steps Down

Long time African Sun chief executive Dr Shingi Munyeza yesterday stepped down from his position at the hospitality group after a 13-year stint. The announcement of the mutual disengagement from the group was made at the company’s AGM yesterday. The group also announced that businessman Mr Herbert Nkala will assume the chairmanship after Mr Bekitemba Nkomo stepped down from that position.

Mr Nkala is a former chairman of competitor Rainbow Tourism Group.

Company secretary Mr Eddie Shangwa will be acting CEO.

Having joined the then Zimbabwe Sun Limited in 2002, Dr Munyeza together with businessman Mr Farai Rwodzi led a consortium of indigenous business people in acquiring 35 percent of the company. He spearheaded a regional expansion programme and re-branded Zimsun Leisure to African Sun.

Speaking on his decision, Dr Munyeza said he was pleased to have left the group in a good position following the advent of new shareholders Brainworks.

“During my term at African Sun we faced challenges and also enjoyed many successes and I am happy to say that I leave the group in a good position where with the advent of new shareholders, the short-term debt has been rationalised and heavy interest rates are no longer a burden to the operations of the group.

Nigeria: What Is The Way Forward For The Tourism Industry?

The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation [NTDC], apex tourism agency in Nigeria will no longer receive public funding by 2018. Sources confirmed to African Travel Times magazine that this is contained in a government document and recommended by the Orosanye Panel. This was part of government gradual reduction in public funding of some of its agencies and institutions.

This is in sharp contrast to what obtains around the world where the equivalent of the NTDC and its like are consolidating their relevance and getting more public funding for their operations and activities.

Industry watchers say severing funding for the only tourism marketing and promotion agency in the country amounts to poor understanding of the sector as well as its relevance to the economy as a whole.

Surprisingly, the NTDC has not been able to properly articulate and continuously make a case for its usefulness as to why it deserves public funding.

Countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe, Seychelles, Egypt, South Africa as well as the developed countries of Europe, Asia and the Americas are constantly increasing budgetary allocation for marketing and promotion of their various countries as preferred destinations.

The Supreme Court Judgement of 2013 that ceded registration of travel and tourism establishments, grading and classification to states, has made the tourism agency to run into financial difficulties, just as the quality of services in the industry across the country has dropped significantly.

Today, the entire tourism industry is on its knees due to paucity of funds. The fact must also be told that lack of funding is not peculiar to tourism alone, but because of the service nature of the tourism industry, it is most affected.

The Director-General of the NTDC Sally Mbanefo has tried to generate maximum support from the private sector to no avail, which clearly shows that the step the government is following would not work.

Regrettably, the NTDC boss is running out of luck, as there are very few organisations and individuals she can run to for funding of the apex tourism body.

Nigeria is not a destination yet and the government must understand that it is counter-productive to cut funding to the tourism agency.  At best, it must put in place and empower the NTDC to henceforth begin the collection of Departure Tax from everyone travelling out of the country to fund its operation and activities.

Presently, the broken down of relationship between the supervising Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation orchestrated by the Minister, Edem Duke; is an aberration on his personality for someone that has headed the tourism private sector before becoming a minister.

The minister who is from Cross River State and the directors in the ministry who are from his part of the country have not shown competence and purposeful leadership in the last four years.

Despite being from Nigeria’s prime destination state, they have shocked analysts and cast doubts on the ability of Cross River people in successfully running the tourism industry.

The tourism industry in their home state has also slumped and as tourism administrators at the federal level, have led the industry into the doldrums through the unacceptable denigration of the NTDC and its leadership.

Back in Cross River State, the minister has not added any value to the once fledgling tourism sector. The much talked Obudu Mountain Resort is now a shadow of itself, with  TINAPA leisure packages also running out of steam.

Unbelievably, the famous Carnival Calabar, Nigeria’s most famous domestic tourism product is gradually fading away as some its core contents, the BANDS are no longer what they used to be.

Ultimately, the federal government and the states that are genuinely promoting tourism must redouble their efforts in deploying more resources as well as man power that are lacking across the country.

As for the NTDC, the agency must continue to dialogue with the private sector on the way forward by enacting what the Director-General Sally Mbanefo did three month into her tenure when she called a stakeholders’ summit in Lagos. It was an event she used her goodwill in the private sector to get sponsors for, without any financial implication for the NTDC where she unfolded her plans, vision and action.

At the summit with the theme: “Rebranding the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation,“ Mrs Mbanefo,  leveraged her experience in the private sector to explore opportunities in the sector.

Her words: “Tourism is a serious business which must be approached with all sincerity of purpose, diligence of mind and optimal clarity for the betterment of the nation’s economy and not just for its glamour, noise  and paparazzi intent. I don’t want to play to the gallery as my mission, according to the President Goodluck Jonathan who appointed me, is to do all things humanly possible to link the sector with the mainstream of the economy, not by making noise on the pages of newspapers but by ensuring there is a strong connect between NTDC and the private sector.”

Then, she revealed that “for the sector to grow and align itself perfectly with the mainstream of the economy for the benefits of the stakeholders and practitioners, there should be a paradigm shift from the ways NTDC as an entity used to conduct business and interact with the private sector and this could only be done if the corporation itself is reinvented and restructured in line with contemporary dictates and demands, which many people are still waiting for.

Hotel Presidential, Is Still The Old Lady Of Nigeria South

Hotel Presidential is located in the heart of the Garden City – Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State, Nigeria. Being centrally situated within the business districts and the main shopping areas of the city, Hotel Presidential is an ideal choice for both leisure and business travellers. With its 241 tastefully furnished and functionally equipped rooms and 53 spacious suites including rooms and suites on the executive 5th floor with access to the executive lounge.

The Hotel is supplemented by our conference and banqueting facilities comprising of four Conference rooms, Royal Banquet hall, Main Banquet hall and the largest, the Atlantic hall with a capacity over 500 persons, all of them just perfect for holding conferences, conventions, seminars, workshops, weddings and other events. In addition, the hotel also boasts a Conference and Banqueting Tent ideally designed to accommodate 2000-2500 guests.

Hotel Presidential also has a variety of restaurants offering a wide selection of international cuisine and distinctive styles ranging from African and Asian to Lebanese Cuisine specialties.

In this interview with Lucky Onoriode George, the General Manager, Joseph Rennie, reveals some of the secrets for the success so far. Excerpts:

What is the secret that after almost four decades, Hotel Presidential still ranks among the very best in this part of Nigeria? 

It’s been very difficult, but with a lot of hard work and lots of support from my directors. Just recently, we have completed the full renovation of the Rivers Restaurant, several floors now; the fourth and fifth floors, I don’t know if you have seen it. 

Renovation or refurbishment is all about money, how are you funding all these? 

Yes, it’s all about money and that is why there is a slow down at the money because of the negative impact of Ebola. Lots of our guests cancel lots of functions and bookings because when Ebola hits Port Harcourt, our business dropped from 65 per cent to 22 per cent. Without doubt, the last two months has been a very difficult period for us.

How did you receive the news by the World Health Organisation [WHO], declaring Nigeria free of Ebola? 

During the outbreak, we worked closely with the Ministry of Public Health here in Rivers State and we attended several meetings where the procedures and prevention measures were laid out. Thereafter, we put in place the aforementioned in the hotel and we worked closely too with some of the oil companies; Shell Petroleum Development Company [SPDC], Saipem and Total among others. 

Are you very optimistic that business will climb to normal before the end of the year?

Yes, we are very hopeful that business will get close to normal before the end of the year. Already, some of the cancelled bookings are now being reconfirmed for this November and December. In the last few days, business has been booming…with lots of activities going on.

What lesson have we learnt from the way the federal and state governments handled the Ebola out breaks, and if business that most affected like the hospitality industry be given palliatives? 

We have all learnt hard lessons. As for me, I am keeping all my practices in place…sanitisation and washing of hands in every department regularly will remain in place. As for everyone entering the hotel, they will also continue to observe this simple, but very important exercise. 

What impact would the renovations and refurbishment exercise do to your operations? 

Ohhhh! It would surely have good effect because we have got good reports. Gladly enough, we have just secured a new contract with an international airline that would henceforth put their crew here. Besides, the oil companies are also very impressed with the exercise done so far and we hope this will be followed up with more businesses for us.

From November 1st, 2014, we, now have an international airline that would be staying with us. Sincerely, we are now generating extra business in addition to our oil and gas clients that have been around with us for a while now. 

What other deal are you expecting because you are capable of surprises? 

At present, none! However, the pool area will be given attention because I hope to transform it into something very different. I hope to have a small café where users can easily buy small chops; and that would start early next year.  

Sustained peace in Port Harcourt, how has this affected your operations? 

We have no problem security wise in the past few years and I can tell you that we have though wonderful working relationship with the various agencies in the city.

Now that you are modernising, what is your training programme like now? 

We are investing in the training of our staff. Every Tuesday, we hold a health talk which is mandatory for all departments. Before the Ebola outbreak, we had routine training programmes for our staff; most especially, food handling, restaurant and room division that are at the core of our operations.

Very recently, we have also upgraded our front office, with the introduction of Opera System. With this, guests checking in would spend less time, especially our regular ones that the new system is capable of capturing holding guest information. 

How is your community relationship like? 

Our community relationship is very good. I have just recently received an award from the local community because we do take care of some of their issues. Only recently again, we also got our HSC awards from Total which was excellent. We have never received anything like this in the hotel.

Hotel Presidential is one of the two recipients of the award, this award for me is the highlight for this year because my background is HSC and I strive for it.