By Berhane Hailemariam
Green Coffee Agro-Industry has teamed up with Hilton Worldwide to open a five-star hotel in Meqelle, Tigray Regional State. This makes the capital of the Tigray Regional State the first city in the Northern part of Ethiopia to host an international brand hotel.
The agreement between Green Coffee and Hilton was signed on April 16, 2018, in Meqelle. The hotel will be the fifth of its kind that is in the pipeline under the Hilton brand.
A team of advisers from Fairfax Africa Fund were present at the signing ceremony. Fairfax Africa Fund is a consultancy firm that facilitates business deals for Ethiopian investors with foreign companies; they also conduct feasibility studies to construct hotels.
“We reached this stage after a two-year study and assessment of other brand name hotels using the following criteria; their level of commitment, presence in Ethiopia and experience,” Zemedeneh Nigatu, global chairman of Fairfax said. “The target customers are domestic and overseas tourists as well as the business persons that the industrial park has been attracting.”
Meqelle Industrial Park, which manufactures textile and apparel, was inaugurated last year after using 100 million dollars to build.
The new Hilton hotel will have 15 storeys with 245 rooms. Including restaurants, bars, two presidential suites, and conference rooms that can hold up to 1,000 people. It sprawls on 35,000sqm of land and is located in the centre of Meqelle on Hawelti road, within walking distance of Martyrs Memorial Monument.
It was designed by a United Kingdom company, G1 Architects. Founded two decades ago, it specialises in the construction of hotels and resorts and has experience working with global brands such as Hilton.
For the owner of Green Coffee, Tadelle Abraha, this is the first venture into the hospitality industry. The company has been engaged in coffee export and has invested in Gambella Palm Plantations for three years.
“The opening of the hotel will improve the flow of conference tourism to the city,” said Dawit Hailu, head of Tigray Culture & Tourism Bureau. “Urbanisation coupled with the industrial parks will be a great opportunity for attracting investors to the city.”
Hilton has more than 570 hotels across six continents. Its engagement with Ethiopia dates back to almost a century ago when the first of its brand, Hilton Addis, opened in Africa. Today, five new Hilton brands are in the pipeline, including the one in Meqelle, Hawassa, Bahir Dar, and two more in Addis Abeba.
This has not been without challenges though, as Hilton Addis was downgraded to three-stars from its initial five-star rating by the Ministry of Culture & Tourism (MoCT) three years ago.
There are currently about 23 international brand hotels being built in Ethiopia. Although the only ones that are operating right now are Radisson Blu, Sheraton Addis, Marriot Executive Apartments, Hilton, Ramada Addis and Golden Tulip.
David Desta, who has over seven years of experience in the domestic tourism industry, believes the signing of the agreement shows that investors and international brands are interested in the Ethiopian market, specifically cities outside of Addis Abeba.
“Hilton’s marking power and its international presence will help attract businesses and leisure travellers to the property,” he told Fortune.
Tadelle was not immediately available for comment.