IGIHE has caught up with William McIntyre, Regional Director for Southern Africa for Carlson Rezidor, on the sidelines of African Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) in Kigali on Tuesday, to learn about the giant brand’s ambitions in Rwanda and the region.
About Rwanda, McIntyre said, “We are very confident of our investment in Rwanda and everything is set perfectly for Kigali in particular to become a hub of meetings and events, and a tourism hub. We are currently focusing on increasing our occupancy which will tie in with the increase in tourism in the country.”
He said, in the region covering South Africa, Mauritius, Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, Gabon and Rwanda, Carlson Rezidor boasts of 20 hotels in operation and six under development while they target to add at least 40 hotels under their strategic Destination 2022.
Carlson Rezidor put its footprint on the continent in 2000 with the opening of Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa but over the last three years, it has signed a new hotel deal in Africa every 37 days and improved its hotel openings to open a new hotel every 60 days, leading to a great expansion currently featuring 80 hotels with 17,200 rooms in operation and under development. The target is to have over 23,000 rooms in Africa by 2022.
South African national, McIntyre has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry, with his most recent role as COO for the largest hospitality real estate fund in Southern Africa, Hospitality Property Fund.
He elaborated on Carlson Rezidor’s ambitions and his own perception of the industry in interview excerpts below:
IGIHE: Who is William McIntyre in brief?
McIntyre: I am the Regional Director for Southern Africa for Carlson Rezidor, responsible for commercial performance, operations standards and owners relationships.
IGIHE: How did you get started in hotel industry?
McIntyre: I started in electrical engineering and construction, then moved to project management, within the project management I got into hotel industry as chief engineer, later changed career towards human resource. So, the combination of project management, engineering and human resource gave me a strong understanding of facility management. Coming to Carlson Rezidor, I understand the hotel owner’s perspective because we manage on behalf of them.
IGIHE: How do you make it in hospitality industry?
McIntyre: People often ask me, “How did you come to this job?” I like this sector as a knowledge-based facilitator of collective goals. My answer is always this, “incremental improvement” because today is 100% (successful) but tomorrow maybe 99%. We are never satisfied that we got it perfectly. We deal with people, with experiences, so every day we try to improve everything. The day you are satisfied in hospitality industry, it is the day you sink because competition never sleeps.
IGIHE: How well is Carlson Rezidor positioned in Southern Africa region?
McIntyre: Well, 17 years ago, Southern Africa was very much a region of independent hotel managers. There were not many international managers of hotels. In 2000, Carlson Rezidor took up the first hotel, Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront in Cape Town. Now we have 43 openings in Africa and 78 in the pipeline. We have grown faster than anybody else in Southern Africa specifically. In Kigali for example, we have Radisson Blu Hotel at the Kigali Convention Centre, this is a world-class facility exactly in the centre of Africa.
IGIHE: What can we expect from Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group within Southern Africa in the next five years?
McIntyre: Carlson Rezidor has got new owners, the HNA Group (Chinese conglomerate). They have made it clear that they want to be in the top three hotel managers in the world in the next 10 years. We have had an aggressive expansion programme in Africa. You can expect nothing but expansion from Carlson Rezidor in the next five years. We plan to introduce two more brands but currently focusing on Radisson Blu and Park Inn as we look up to introduce two more brands to give people a range of choice.
IGIHE: Rwanda falls within your region of job, how do you see Rwanda’s hospitality industry?
McIntyre: Rwanda has acquired confidence, it is organised, clean and safe. The country was recently named the safest in Africa and ninth in the world. People are looking for places where they can have new experiences and feel safe amid the terrible things happening in the world. So, to be recognized as the safest destination works perfectly for the country’s ambitions to attract people here. We are very confident of our investment in Rwanda.
IGIHE: What defines most your interest in Rwanda?
McIntyre: I was speaking to some people in South Africa just last week, they were looking for locations for Pan-African conventions, and I said to them, “Come to Rwanda, come to Kigali, to understand the potential of the capacity that Rwanda has for tourism, meetings and events.” Anyone who is looking for a major and unique conference venue but still completely the African experience, I tell them, “Come to Rwanda”. I was speaking to someone here at AHIF earlier, and he said he has not felt this comfort of the function since Cape Town. People are comparing Kigali to Cape Town, that is a good thing. Cape Town is the best city for conferences on the continent.
IGIHE: Carlson Rezidor is managing only two hotels in Kigali, do you consider adding more on your list?
McIntyre: We are currently able to accommodate 5000 delegates at KCC and at least 400 more at the Park Inn by Radisson Kigali. The market in Kigali is very well stocked with hotel rooms, so we want to consolidate for awhile and raise occupancy rate.
IGIHE: What message would you leave to your clients in Kigali?
McIntyre: For any business, your client is your most important asset, you have to listen to your client. We have a strong brand with very clear brand identities and the people who are regular guests of Carlson Rezidor across the continent will experience the best services by Kigali in particular. I can tell our esteemed clients, “stay with us in Carlson Rezidor hotels. We are very confident we will continue to exceed your expectations. But if you are looking for something extra or something different, come to our hotels in Rwanda, I am a big fan, I am a big fan!