Hotels bankrolled by Muslim spiritual leader eyeing locations in Syria, other conflict zones
Billionaire investor and moderate Muslim leader Prince Aga Khan (C) is shown herewith Princess Zara Aga Kahn (R) congratulating Irish jockey John-Patrick Murtagh after winning the 163rd Prix de Diane horse racie with Aga Khan's horse Valyra (L), on June 17, 2012 in Chantilly, northern Paris. AFP PHOTO
THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
A location in Syria isn’t the first choice for most hoteliers — unless they are working for Serena Hotels. Then, it’s ideal.
Serena Hotels runs a network of “luxury resorts, safari lodges and hotels,” across East Africa and Southern Asia. Part of its unconventional business plan is opening five-star destinations in war torn places.
The chain is run by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, an agency that “focuses on building enterprises in parts of the world that lack sufficient foreign direct investment” by making “bold but calculated investments in situations that are fragile and complex,” according to its website.
The fund is bankrolled by Aga Kahn, a billionaire investor, moderate Muslim leader and believed descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, who acts as leader to some of the world’s 15 million Ismailis. He is the son of a divine prince, Aly Khan, once married to the Hollywood starlet Rita Hayworth.
“If you travel the developing world, you see poverty is the driver of tragic despair, and there is the possibility that any means out will be taken,” said Aga Khan in a rare interview with the New York Times. By assisting the poor through business, he said, “we are developing protection against extremism.”
There are Serena Hotels in Kigali, Rwanda, and Islamabad, Pakistan, but the chain is eyeing locations in Damascus, Syria, and two more in Afghanistan, reports Der Spiegel, a German newspaper.
“They have calculated that countries like that will require and do eventually require westerners,” said Seth Jones, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, an American think tank, who recently stayed at a Serena Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“If you're used to staying at a Ritz-Carleton or an Intercontinental, they're not that dissimilar,” said Jones.
Running a westernized hotel in the heartland of terrorist organizations and in the middle of civil wars calls for expansive security.
After the Kabul location was bombed by the Taliban in 2008, a concrete perimeter wall was erected. Today, swarms of armed guards patrol the grounds. It’s reported guests dine in bullet-proof vests.
The east-west tension is present inside as well. In 2007, Laszlo Barna screened Shake Hands with the Devil, a film based on Gen. Romeo Dallaire’s book about the Rwanda genocide, in the country’s capital at the Serena Hotel.
“It was probably one of the most nerve-wracking screenings I’ve ever had,” said Barna at the time.
Still, if the Islamabad location is anything to go by, future Serena Hotels will have no problem attracting foreigners, said Jones, the political scientist.
“It (the Islamabad Serena Hotel) has got beautiful grounds, these little cafes, like a little bakery you can sit out and have coffee,” he said.
The Euro zone crisis and security risks have eroded profits for hotels and lodges company TPS Eastern Africa, which has posted a 35 percent drop in its profits after tax for the last six months.
TPS Eastern Africa net profits declined to Sh120 million in the last six months from Sh185 million over a similar period last year, impacted negatively by media reports and travel advisories that reduced the number of tourists into the country from traditional source markets.
“The business was supported by the Eastern Africa domestic tourists and other non-traditional markets like China, Scandinavia and Thailand,” said TPS in a statement Thursday.
TPS, which is well known through its Serena Group of hotels, said the US and other Western governments travel advisory warnings about terrorist attacks in Kenya had eroded their profitability.
Kenya crossed over to Somalia in October 2011 in pursuit of the Al-Shabaab militia that it accuses of a series of kidnappings especially in the coastal region.
TPS also said the volatile economic environment in East Africa characterised by inflationary pressures associated with increased energy and interest costs affected business negatively. The group’s interest costs increased 51 per cent to Sh63.9 million from Sh42.4 million in a similar period last year.
However, the group has its thumbs up for the Tanzanian market, saying it expects a positive performance from the region between July to October.
"The forecast business outlook for the peak season from July to October (for east Africa) is at healthy levels", TPS said in the statement.
Silver Eco-rating Certificate for Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp.
Committed to protecting and conserving the natural environment whilst promoting responsible tourism practices, Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp has been awarded a Silver Eco-rating certificate.
The certificate, awarded by Ecotourism Kenya, recognizes best practices in environmental conservation, responsible resource use and socio-economic investment among tourism accommodation facilities. Qualified applicants are awarded with a Bronze, Silver or Gold
eco-rating certification based on their performance.
The certificate was issued following a site visit which assessed the camp’s performance in nature conservation, environmental management, community development, education and awareness and environmental health and safety. This included inspection of key departments, including the kitchen, laundry, guest rooms, and staff quarters alongside interviewing hotel personnel and guests.
Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp is the latest property in the Serena portfolio to be awarded with the Silver Eco rating Certificate. Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge, Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge and Serena Beach Hotel and Spa have all been rewarded with a Silver rating for their marked environmental efforts.
Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp which is situated in the Soysambu Conservancy and overlooks the shores of Lake Elmenteita, a soda lake in the Great Rift Valley, located between Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru.
Lord Delamere established Soysambu ranch in 1897; A great adventurer, Delamere arrived in Kenya on foot after a 1000 mile walk from Somalia. He was the third Baron Delamere, and dedicated his foresight and fortune to pioneering farming methods in the Rift Valley, before passing away in 1913. Soysambu remains a working cattle ranch and the fifth Baron, today’s Lord Delamere, still lives on Soysambu, with some of the best Boran cattle in Kenya.
Declared a RAMSAR site (wetland of international importance) in 2005, Lake Elmenteita is home to over 450 species of bird including the rare Jackson’s Widow and the Grey – Crested Helmet – Shrike while the lake is the last breeding place in East Africa for the Great White Pelican.
In 2008, part of the ranch was transformed into a 48,000 acre exclusive conservancy, covering the north, west and part of the southern shores of Lake Elmenteita. Sharing a boundary with the famous Lake Nakuru National Park, Soysambu plays a major role in the Elmenteita-Nakuru Eco system, protecting over 50 mammal species including leopard and caracal and is home to 10% of the world’s entire population of the endangered Rotschild giraffe.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the great lakes, Lake Elmenteita and the surrounding environs are a place of natural importance, providing an important and significant natural habitat for biological diversity.
With 25 tents, Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp has initiated a re-afforestation program involving the local community, charities and primary schools, including Kiboko Primary School, Echariria Primary School, Kasambara Youth Group, Soysambu Conservancy, Lions Club International and Elmenteita Serena Staff. So far, the initiative has planted over 1000 indigenous tree seedlings provided by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED). In addition, the camp sponsors a routine monthly litter collection exercise along the busy Nakuru-Naivasha highway.
With 30% of the staff trained in first aid and about 80% having acquired firefighting skills the camp has a health and safety committee, which meets once a month, and undertakes quarterly risk analysis at the work place to spearhead health and safety issues at the facility. The camp has subscribed to SGS (SociétéGénérale de Surveillance), the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and a certification Company audits for its food safety and hygiene.
Enhancing support of the local communities Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp buys vegetables and fish from a local group, the Majimoto Youth Group, and supports the group by sending visitors to a spring managed by the group at a cost of Ksh.500 per person, payable to the youth group. All unskilled and semi-skilled labor is sourced from the neighboring Kasambara and Mbaruk villages. The camp promotes a community health education program for HIV awareness, a program managed by the resident nurse in Mbaruk Village. The camp also has a staff welfare committee established to cater for the employee’s needs, they are provided with free medical care, accommodation, food, uniform and transport.
Congratulations to the team at the Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp on this achieving this wonderful accolade.
The Nairobi Serena Hotel added its name to the list of Serena Hotels lodges and hotels that have been on a winning streak for the past two months, after being bestowed with two certificates from SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and Certification Company and a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.
Nairobi Serena Hotel, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World was accorded the Hygiene Monitored Certificate by SGS Kenya Limited, the local body that represents SGS, the World’s leading inspection, verification, testing and Certification Company.
The audit, which was divided into four phases entailed inspection, testing, certification and verification, saw the Nairobi Serena manage to score more than 75% in the findings, a benchmark for their quality.
The SGS’s hygiene monitored approval scheme is a hygiene audit system that delivers measurable improvements to good hygiene practices and helps those in the food operations in the hospitality and retail sectors comply with international food hygiene regulations, an exercise that saw Nairobi Serena Hotel achieve a score of more than 75%.
The team at Nairobi Serena extended its winning by being awarded a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence after earning 4.5 out of a possible 5 points. The Certificate is awarded to businesses that maintain an average rating of four or higher out of a possible five as reviewed by travelers on TripAdvisor.
Justly famed for its exceptional standards of efficiency, service and five-star hospitality, the elegantly sophisticated Nairobi Serena is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World group and is consistently voted ‘Best Hotel in Nairobi’ by airlines and international travel magazines alike.
Summing up their winning, General Manager, Mr. Daniel Kang’u said “Let us now give it our all and achieve the five full STARS in 2013. We can do it!”
Kigali & Kampala Serena Hotels win in World Travel Awards.
Kigali Serena Hotel and Kampala Serena Hotel are this year’s winners of the prestigious World Travel Award-2012 as the Leading Hotels in Rwanda and Uganda respectively, bagging the award for the very first time. The announcement which was made on September 20, 2012 from London via the World Travel Awards website saw these two hotels emerge winners among a competitive list, some who have won in the category more than once.
This was the first time Kigali Serena Hotel earned a nomination, as the Kampala Serena Hotel shared a nomination with another Serena Hotels gem, the Lake Victoria Serena Resort. Kampala Serena Hotel, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World had previously been nominated for the leading Hotel in Uganda in the year 2007.
At its 19th year, the World Travel Award serves to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the global travel, tourism and hospitality industry, with 180,000 industry professionals from around the world participating in the voting process.
Ideally located at the very heart of Kampala, the Kampala Serena Hotel stands amidst 72 acres of landscaped grounds and water gardens. An oasis of cool and green, encircled by the seven hills of Kampala, this 152-room world-class hotel is the focal point of national, regional, business, political and social life.
The five-star Kigali Serena Hotel is built around a polished granite atrium, which showcases the very best of Rwandese cultural art. Relaxed yet elegant, the hotel centres on the Executive Lounge and Bar, which opens onto a wide sundeck overlooking the newly refurbished swimming pool. Also overlooking the pool, the popular Milima Restaurant offers a wide range of all-day buffet choices, while the relaxed Sokoni Café offers inside and outside poolside seating.
Other Serena Hotels properties that had been nominated for this years awards include Dar es salam, Nairobi Serena Hotel, Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge, Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge, Serena Mountain Lodge, Polana Serena Hotel, Serena Kirawira Camp, Lake Victoria Serena Resort and Zanzibar Serena Inn.
He wears many hats: a celebrated chef, author, restaurant consultant and an entrepreneur and hosts one of the longest running shows in Asia, which boasts of more than 500 million viewers in 120 countries!
Meet Sanjeev Kapoor, the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine today, who in the year 2008 was honored with the National award for ‘Best Chef of the Year 2008’ by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India among numerous accolades and was listed in the list of 100 of India’s Most Trusted persons by the March 2010 issue of Reader’s Digest.
His popularity has also spilled online, with his Facebook page garnering 446,261 likes and growing, and his popular Youtube channel for culinary video tips ammasing more than 33, 550, 000 views . Sanjeev was featured on CNN by Richard Quest on a programme on celebrity chefs (crème de la crème) chosen from around the world.
Enough of the introductions…are you aware Sanjeev was in town with his Tv crew…and sampled the gem that is East Africa? Below are photos from his stay at Dar es Salaam Serena Hotel, Zanzibar Serena Inn, Ngorongoro and Serengeti Serena Safari Lodges where he stayed while in Tanzania. In Kenya, our staff at the Nairobi Serena Hotel and Sweetwaters Tented Camp had the chance to learn from the master himself as well as staff from the Kampala Serena Hotel in Uganda.
Serena Hotels wins in Condé Nast Traveler 2012
Kirawira Luxury Tented Camp led a number of Serena Hotels properties in being featured at this year’s Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. The awards by the world’s premier travel magazine lists hotels chosen by a team of editors, writers and experts and recognizes them for their best service, location, food, rooms, leisure facilities and ambience & design.
Kirawira Luxury Tented Camp earned three slots after making it to the Top 100 Hotels and Resorts of the World and the Platinum Circle which was launched to celebrate 25 years of Condé Nast Traveler. This circle recognizes the superstars of the Gold List and consists of hotels, resorts, and cruise lines that have made the list every year for the past five years running.
Kirawira Luxury Tented Camp made it’s cut alongside other Serena properties in the Top 25 Resorts & Safari Camps in Africa, which rates the top resorts and safari camps in South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Zambia. Amboseli Serena, Serengeti Serena Lodge, Mara Serena Safari Lodge and Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge made it to this list, with Zanzibar Serena Inn and Arusha Mountain Village featuring in the
Top 15 Hotels in Africa, where Condé Nast Traveler readers rated the top hotels in South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Tanzania, and Kenya. The Zanzibar Island was listed in theTop 5 Islands in the Indian Ocean. Sweetwaters Tented Camp earned a slot Kenya’s Top Hotels and Resorts.
Below is a breakdown of each Serena Hotels property that made it to the Condé Nast Traveler as well as what travelers had to say about the various lodges and camps.
In Rwanda, it is mandatory for every citizen to participate in the community service day every last Saturday of the month, where they clean up their neighborhood and engage in community development projects. This practice, which dates back to colonial times is known as Umuganda and is intended to build community involvement and strengthen cohesion between persons of different background and levels.
The last Saturday for October was however different for the staff from Lake Kivu Serena Hotel, as they participated in Umuganda in a different way. Led by the country General Manager Charles Muia, the staff took part in a tree planting initiative in the 20 hectares area in Bwize on the banks of River Sebeya, where more than 8, 000 tree seedlings were planted on a single day to add forest cover in years to come. The Minister of State in Charge of Primary and Secondary Education, local area Member of Parliament, Mayor of the District, area residents joined Serena Hotels staff in this event.
The initiative is part of Serena Hotel’s commitment to going and staying green in all the regions where Serena Hotels are situated, and once the tree seedlings mature the forest will be named “Serena Forest”
Charles Muia also announced that at least four areas will each year get Serena’s support with tree planting, as part of Rwanda’s wider policy to extend forest cover from the present 23 percent to 30 percent across the country by 2020.
It is said that “Every great oak tree was once a nut that stood its ground”, congratulations to the Kigali Serena Hotel’s team on going green.
and the award for the Ecotourism Enterprise of the Year 2012 goes to…
Serena Beach Hotel & Spa earned itself a deserving spot on the Serena Hotels wall of fame, after bagging the Ecotourism Enterprise of the Year 2012 – Villas & Holiday homes at the Eco Warrior Awards which took place on November 16 at the Nairobi Serena Hotel. This was the first time that Serena Beach Hotel and Spa was nominated for the award.
Through the Eco-Warrior Awards, Eco Tourism Kenya recognizes the efforts, innovations and exceptional achievements of credible individuals or groups, who actively promote responsible and sustainable tourism, by promoting mutually beneficial and equitable partnerships which directly conserve the natural environment and support local communities.
Serena Hotels in Plant Your Age Initiative. [Photos]
Serena Hotels made another mark in “Going Green” by participating in the second phase of the Plant Your Age initiative by joining in a tree-planting initiative at the Nairobi National Park in November.
The initiative which had participants of different ages witnessed 10,000 tree seedlings planted on a single day, with Serena Hotels donating 2,000 of the tree seedlings towards the campaign. The initiative aimed at encouraging young people to plant the number of trees that were equivalent to their age to increase the country’s forest cover.
Serena Hotels also donated a cake to crown the event and to celebrate participants who were celebrating their birthdays on that auspicious day.
More than a place to hang your hat: The Awali Adventure — Day Six
The message card left by housekeeping staff on my pillow was simple and beautiful: “Lala salama.” It’s a Swahili phrase that means sleep well and it’s just one of the many lovely touches offered by the Serena Hotel Group in Africa.
Serena staff at Kiziguro church. (photos Farouk Kaweesi)
Kigali Serena hotel on Saturday joined the rest of the country in the 19th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsis by donating 200 iron sheets worth approximately Frw 1m to Gatsibo survivors.
This took place during a visit by the hotel’s staff to Kiziguro Memorial Site in the same district. The group of about 50 people was led by country manager Charles Muia who highlighted Serena’s concern for the plight of the survivors. “We have done this for the last six years, each time donating different items like clothing or towels to different survivors. But this year we decided to donate something to provide shelter for the survivors,” Muia said.
The hotel is also involved in other projects to improve the livelihoods of survivors, especially the youth and widows. The widows under their care are given food stuff and recently they have been given Frw 300,000 to buy materials for their project.
Serena country manager Charles Muia lays a wreath on one of the graves.
As for the youth project, youngster get the chance to go to school after which they get a job at the hotel. So far, Muia remarked, four of them are already employed and 12 will be completing school in May after which they will begin work with Serena immediately.
He added that on April 23, together with the Kenyan High Commissioner in Rwanda and members of the association of Kenyans in Rwanda, they will revisit the Kiziguro site and make more donations. That will be in addition to two more planned visits to other sites on April 27 and at the end of the month.
Feliciene Niyonzima, the president of Ibuka in Gatsibo, expressed appreciation for the visit, and called upon people to stand up to avoid a repetition of the 1994 Genocide by emphasizing forgiveness and reconciliation. Taking the visitors through the history of the site, Niyonzima said about 4500 people were killed in the district and this year alone 69 newly found bodies have been accorded a decent burial. He however noted that the remains of 2000 people are yet to be found.
The hotel’s staff at Kiziguriro Memorial Site.
The Serena staff also visited nearby Kiziguro Catholic Parish Church where Tutsis were taking shelter in 1994 before on April 11 Interahamwe militias forced the door open and started shooting, killing most of the refugees. At the site, a big hole in which about 400-500 bodies are said to be buried is preserved by a glass wall hut. It is said that the first Tutsis would be killed and thrown there until the hole filled up. Later, 12 people were found alive among the bodies in that hole.
The tour was concluded by the laying of wreaths at one of the graves.
Eight Serena Hotels Establishments make it to World Travel Awards Nominations.
Eight Serena establishments have made it to the nominees list of the World Travel Awards, with Serena Hotels earning a nomination in the Africa’s Leading Hotel Brand category. Nairobi Serena Hotel led other Serena Hotels Establishments after bagging two nominations in the Africa’s Leading Green Hotel category and Kenya’s Leading Business Hotel categories.
Last year’s winners of the Leading Hotels in Rwanda and Uganda have also earned a nomination in the same category, with Kampala Serena Hotel sharing a nomination with Lake Victoria Serena Resort for the leading Hotel in Uganda 2013.
This brings to ten the number of nominations where Serena Hotels in both Africa and Asia have been entered. Below is the list of the respective Hotels nominated for the awards together with their categories?
•Uganda’s Leading Hotel 2013 : Kampala Serena Hotel & Lake Victoria Serena Resort
• Kenya’s Leading Business Hotel 2013: Nairobi Serena Hotel
•Africa’s Leading Green Hotel 2013: Nairobi Serena Hotel
•Tanzania’s Leading Hotel 2013: Dar es Salaam Serena Hotel
• Rwanda’s Leading Hotel 2013: Kigali Serena Hotel
• Mozambique’s Leading Hotel 2013: The Polana Serena Hotel
•Afghanistan’s Leading Hotel 2013: The Kabul Serena Hotel
•Pakistan’s Leading Hotel 2013: Islamabad Serena Hotel
At its 20th year, the World Travel Award serves to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the global travel, tourism and hospitality industry, with 180,000 industry professionals from around the world participating in the voting process.
The winner and 2 runners up from 2012 prequalify for the 2013 award and the full 2013 nominee list will be published on 27th May 2013 when voting opens for Africa. Voting will be online on the World Travel Awards website and is open to the public, with votes cast by travel trade professional counting as two points, and those by the public as one.
We take the opportunity to congratulate our colleagues in the Serena Establishments and wish them all the best with their nominations.
.This entry was posted in Awards, Communication, CSR, News and tagged Africa's Leading Green Hotel, Africa's Leading Hotel Brand category, Dar es Salaam Serena Hotel, Islamabad Serena Hotel, Kabul Serena Hotel, Kampala Serena Hotel, Kenya's Leading Business Hotel, Kigali Serena Hotel, Lake Victoria Serena Resort, Leading Hotel in Rwanda, Leading Hotel in Uganda, Nairobi Serena Hotel, Polana serena hotel, Serena Hotels, World Travel Awards. Bookmark the permalink.
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