LEADING HOTEL? NOT IF THERE IS NO EXECUTIVE LOUNGE FOR GUESTS!
(Posted 06th July 2018)
(Arty display at the Sheraton Kampala’s 10th Floor Executive Lounge)
I am well aware that some people pull faces when I, in their opinion, ‘harp on‘ about the class some hotels in Kampala show, and then of course not ‘harp on‘ about the hotels where some of them work, which, when visiting in the past, I found wanting, some on several levels.The notable thing though, by and large are platforms like TripAdvisor concurring with my own judgement and opinions, but of course not getting it always right either – just look at their ranking for best hotel in Kampala and you too might shake your head.
(Sheraton Kampala Executive Lounge’s dining section and adjoining conference room)
Besides the boxes hotels need to tick for the hotel inspection teams dispatched by the Uganda Tourism Board’s licensing section and besides the even more boxes global ranking agencies and hotel marketing cooperatives like ‘Leading Hotels of the World‘ require to be ticked, do I have my own way of assessing standards and services I encounter and with nearly 500 TripAdvisor reviews under my belt I am perhaps well qualified to give my opinion.
When at breakfast butter is served still frozen, that is a big NO NO for a 5 star hotel, as are waiters chatting away loudly among themselves instead of paying attention to guests waving hands in the air to capture their attention.
(Sheraton Kampala’s Executive Lounge)
Charging for WiFi in this day and age, given the tariffs of top of the range hotels, too is no longer acceptable and those truly deserving their status as a leading hotel, offer guests free water and soft drinks in the fridge, some even add beers to it while the tea / coffee station in the room has ample supplies ‘loaded’ on the tray and a proper coffee maker with a choice of capsules is available for good measure.
I also look at the number of sockets on the working desk, the quality of the chair, the availability of USB sockets – also on the night stand and not just at the work station – the contents AND selection of amenities in the bathroom, the quality of robes – who hasn’t tossed theirs in disgust when finding it has shrunk after too many hot washes and no longer fits – and of course how large and fluffy the towels are. Hand towels, face towels, floor mats, but also wipes (Kleenex) are expected in a true 5 star hotel, as is a separate set of shampoo, body wash and conditioner in the – of course separate – shower cabin and even on the edge of the bathtub.
Finding all required information on the check in form too is a must, for how many hours have I wasted in the past to fill details the hotel already had on file but failed to upload to their Front Office to include for MY convenience.
I could go on and on of course but let me today focus on the latest offering true hospitality champions provide for their premium guests.
(The view from the Kampala Sheraton’s Executive Lounge over the city of Kampala)
In Kampala I know of just two Executive Lounges, one at the Sheraton which has been there for several years now and is open for qualifying SPG members and guests booked into rooms on the Executive Floors or into a suite, and more recently a brand new on opened at the Kampala Serena Hotel.
(Breakfast is served at the Sheraton Kampala’s Executive Lounge)
Both hotels give access to these facilities to their premium guests only to keep the facility both exclusive AND quiet. In the case of the Sheraton are light meals served throughout the day from breakfast over lunch to tea and cocktail snacks in the evening – complimentary of course for qualifying guests.
Also available at the Sheraton are two desktop computers, linked to a printer, allowing a guest to do some quick work and print it before heading out for her or his meetings. To top it has the Sheraton also a ‘boardroom‘ attached to their lounge, sitting as many as 8. Here business meetings can be held, staff travelling together on a sales or other mission can brainstorm while tea, coffee, juices, water and sodas are available throughout the day – again on the house of course.
On to the more recently opened Executive Lounge at the Kampala Serena Hotel.
This brand new facility can only be called a class act and the space – the hotel converted two suites to establish this haven of peace and tranquility in hotel otherwise bubbling with activity – is generous and the lounge well appointed with separate dining and sitting spaces.
(Impressions from the Kampala Serena Executive Lounge)
Books, magazines and newspapers are available for guests who need to switch off a little and recuperate and relax, and of course they have come to the right place. A wide screen TV shows the latest world and business news but also tennis, football, cricket and rugby matches – among other sports of course – when a guest would like to watch his favourite sport.From 17.30 hrs to 18.30 hrs does the Serena lounge offer guests a ‘Happy Hour‘ when drinks and canapes are on the house, a measure aimed to further increase loyalty among Serena’s top tier guests.
Breakfast here too is ‘on the house’ though orders placed for lunch or snacks are being charged to a guest’s room account.
The furniture, both in the dining section and in the section where easy chairs and sofas dominate the setting, are well chosen and reflect the quality of the entire hotel in every aspect, and a lounge attendant is on duty to assist guests, concierge style, but also to clear tables or refill one’s tea cup.
Tucked into a fifth floor corner – of a six storey building – does the lounge allow a good view into the garden below and across some parts to Kampala.
Guest have, in both hotels, taken to this value added service, entitled through the loyalty cards they hold and the level of points accrued on them, but also entitled when paying premium rates or staying in a suite.
This follows a global trend, to which among other InterContinental and Radisson Blu have contributed with Executive Lounges in their hotels, as does Starwood Hotels – owner of the Sheraton brand – principal owner Marriott.
Five star hotels, like airlines offering the choice of First Class over and above Business Class, have to work hard to keep their clientele and their revenues inhouse and not go ‘walkabout‘ exploring other options, to fly with and to stay with, and hotel lounges are one of several ways to go to achieve that.