Tell us about your professional experience in the hotel industry.
I have worked in the hospitality industry for more than 30 years and 15 of those as a general manager in various regions and countries such as Middle East – Gulf GCC, UAE: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Bahrain; South America: Argentine and Brazil, Europe: France, North Africa: Morocco and most recently, East Africa in Djibouti.
My experience ranges from Rooms Division to food and beverages, managing hotel operations, and deeply involved with sales and marketing strategies. Project management has been a key element in my career and I have been involved in several hotel openings, re-openings and re-branding after renovations.
What is your strategy for Sheraton Kampala Hotel this year?
My counterpart, Mr Ian Duncan, did a good job in restoring Sheraton Kampala’s reputation, working on several initiatives, which included training as well as bringing in a new management team that completely overhauled the food and beverage operations. Our strategy will be to continue with the work he started and initiate several renovations and upgrade projects that will provide a facelift of several public and operations areas.
I will focus on learning and developing young local talents and their career plan. I will invest in our local management team in areas related to new technologies, new market trends, welfare, and safety and security regulations to ensure a smooth successional plan in future.
From a sales and marketing point of view, the main strategy will be to maximise the potential of various global Starwood programmes such as SPG and SPG Pro as well as participating in international trade shows and global sales tours plus focusing on events and outside catering. The idea is to ensure Sheraton Kampala remains relevant and competitive in the market and to contribute towards the development of Uganda as a tourist destination.
How will you manage overseeing two facilities concurrently including Sheraton Kampala and Sheraton Djibouti?
My aim is to develop synergies between the two properties in different areas such as regional sales and distribution, marketing & communication, human resources, training programmes including cross training and the “shooting star” programme focusing on developing potential young managers.
I will also to rationalise items in both properties especially areas such as procurement, R&M and mainly the upcoming renovation projects for both hotels.
You have come at a time when the tourism and hospitality industry is poised to grow; with increased investments and global visibility. What insights do you have about the industry?
I see a great potential to develop tourism in Uganda because of the rich history and culture, the wonderful and unique attractions found in the wild life, and mostly the hospitality of the Ugandan people.
However, Uganda must highlight these unique aspects on the international scene to inspire international travellers and nature lovers to come over and create unique experiences and unforgettable memories
What are your plans to maintain the current visibility that Sheraton Kampala Hotel has gained?
Our plan is to build on some of the great hotel events that we have partnered with in the past and use them as marketing opportunities. We also intend to leverage on partnerships to develop new events or redevelop already popular events and corporate social responsibility that include prisons outreach, youth development programmes and disadvantaged children.
There has been a great turn around in our food gauging from our customer’s feedback and we will take advantage of our renowned gastronomy and our fantastic indoor and outdoor venues to create new events and entertainment options for our loyal clientele.
We shall also reach out to customers that would not consider Sheraton as an option but would be interested in the offers in place.
The Sheraton has a landmark swimming pool and a fitness centre that has generated a lot of success in the market with activities for all genders and ages.
What challenges are you anticipating the industry to face?
We know the election period caused quite a bit of economic uncertainty with companies cutting back on travel as well as tourists staying away due to travel advisories from some of our key feeder markets.
However, we are already looking into the near future with optimism when all development projects and the economic activity will be back on track generating business and opportunities for the hotel industry.
We also still need to look at the US dollar rate fluctuation and the effect it can have on our operating costs.
How will you take advantage of digital practices to boost the Sheraton brand?
We plan to grow our online presence through various channels, and engage clients through PPC & tactical online campaigns. The marketing and public relations team will also utilise the wide array of online news sites and promote our various outlets through some of the well-known food and hospitality blogs.
Social media is becoming quite significant and most hotels in Uganda are not yet utilising it to its true potential so we plan on getting there first. We want to generate great visual content that will enhance the brand’s reputation and grow our business.
Is the Sheraton customer experience well designed for today’s multi-generational customer trends? If not, what are you doing about it?
There is a lot of innovation being introduced in the hotel industry and Starwood is at the forefront of some of these initiatives such as the SPG mobile app that allows members to book rooms with personalisation features such as the room type, choice of view, smoking or non-smoking and many more.
How will the change of Sheraton ownership from Starwood to Marriot International affect its operation in Uganda?
There is a transitional team working on the whole integration process. The transaction will not completely take effect until about mid this year. We are, however, aware that not much will change in terms of the operations of our business. A lot of resources have been invested into developing the Sheraton brand. It is more than likely all the brands will be maintained as they are.