Ethiopian Hotels told to pull up their game or else wilt in the upcoming globalized world and competition from international franchise hotels that are coming to the market,
at a two day seminar from December 3-4 organized by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MoTC) in collaboration with a US based consultancy company Global Hospitality Holdings (GHH). The issue of competence and capacity of well versed staff in the hospitality business is a very big problem in the country, particularly since international franchise hotels need skilled manpower, proficient in such skills as Information Communication Technology, while being cost and time effective for the establishment. Araya Abate, Africa Director for ResNet world and GHH said Ethiopian hotels especially those that are independently owned with a particular mention of “self-starred hotels” in addition to having problems with the competency and capacity of the management and staff of the hotels, lack the will and means to train their staff. Some estimates up to 94 percent of their staff are not being professionally trained. “We should have a focus on set of methods of evaluation and standardization,” said Araya adding that appropriation of International brand hotel names, by local ones is running amok, since Ethiopia currently isn’t a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and as such international hotel franchises only recourse in Ethiopia to misappropriation of their names, is to register their brand beforehand. He also mentioned that although Ethiopia is yet to have its own ratings system, the neighbouring country of Kenya and the North African nation of Egypt have greatly benefited from tourism because of their internationally recognized rating system for their hotels, which has helped in streamlining and getting maximum benefits from the sector. Taye Alemayehu from the Ethiopian Hotel Professionals Association (EHPA) said one serious problems affecting hotels was the low participation of hotel owners on hotel management, leading to sub-standard services. He also said that the pricing of “star” hotels particularly in the capital city Addis Ababa was beyond the reach of most of the city’s inhabitants that focus on calculating their price for the convention customer types. Another participant said that the numerous consultancy firms advertising themselves as giving consultancy services are understaffed with little or no knowledge of the hospitality business. Araya remarked that on average international chain hotels spend about five percent of their payroll cost on training their staff, which they see as indispensable. When it comes to independent hotels here it lags in this respect partly because of the belief that there’s a high staff volatility and turnover, which in turn lead to lack of motivation for work among the staff. He in particular raised the issue of Hilton Addis Hotel, which he said in its more than four decades existence has failed to pick up a single Ethiopian General Manager, even increasing its expatriate staff to four from the previous three. “If we don’t change our present way, international hotel chains are coming to Ethiopia, and as such having a pool of trained staff, ensures increased bargaining power,” said Araya further stating that local independent hotels should not be complacent in this regard, because their room occupancy rate is good. Fisseha Assres Managing Partners at GHH says the seminar is a call to independent hotels to get ready for future tough competition in this regards such as technology usage, management skills and E- marketing. He also said it’s as a way of preparing them for the classification standard for new star rating which is expected to start soon according to the revised law approved by the Council of Ministers last year, which determines the standards of hotels operating in the country. Food services, entertainment, view, room variations such as size and additional amenities, spas and fitness centres, ease of access and location are considered in establishing a standard according to the new regulation. The regulation also requires that managers for Five Star hotels have a first degree and 10 years of experience. Ethiopia started producing hotels and tourism professionals recently in Gonder and Hawassa universities. However for an official who came from the Addis Ababa Hotel Owners Association, the purpose of the meeting was confusing. “We’re being told that there’s an impending classification standard for new star rating for hospitality service rendering establishment, which had been cancelled twice before, partly because of inadequate consultations to us and the shortage of capacity on the part of the enforcement officials,” he said. He added that he came to the meeting because of the invitation from MoTC but instead left with the impression the meeting was about experiences of foreign countries and self-promotion on the part of GHH who organized the meeting.