The Lewi’s Plc, a private company established in 1998 and now running a chain of hotels and lodges in Hawassa town of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State (SNNPRS), is building a five-star hotel in the same town.
The hotel is expected to become part of the chain of hotels and lodges the owner of Lewi’s Plc, Wendyefraw Endeshaw, has already formed in the four directions of the town.
The first phase of the latest hotel construction project would cost 60 million Br; the building on the first phase lies on 10,000Sqm of land on the shoreline of Lake Hawassa, leased for 99 years at a rate of 1.5 Br per square metre per annum. The company has already paid 300,000 Br of the about 1.4 million Br total lease price. The amount covers the annual rate of 15,000 Br for the entire 10,000sqm plot for 20 years.
The construction on this plot includes both hotel and lodge facilities. The first phase of the project will see the construction of 113 bedrooms, of which 22 separate and temporarily constructed facilities with traditional Ethiopian cottage finishing lie on 60Sqm of the land; each of them will have a medium sized living room, a sauna and steam bath, a personal safe deposit, a TV set with satellite dish, and Internet connections, according to the owner. There will also be one kitchen on the terrace of each cottage to allow guests to cook for themselves if they choose, and an open space for a campfire. Each of these facilities will have green areas with the capacity to accommodate 15-20 guests at a time.
Five VIP villas, each to be constructed on a 120Sqm plot, having four rooms with a sauna and steam bath, a personal safe deposit, a TV set with satellite dish, and Internet connections are also parts of the first phase construction. The VIP villas will each have an open space for campfires and green area with the capacity to accommodate 40-50 individuals.
Wendyefraw, who has a second degree in engineering from Germany, designed the hotel and the construction is being carried out by The Lewi’s Plc’s sister company.
The investment in the hotel industry in Hawassa by the Lewi’s Plc is part of the construction boom in the town 273Km south of Addis Abeba. The hotel industry in particular has recently been under significant expansion in the town.
The seat of the SNNPRS hosts several events by the regional and the federal governments. However, the town is yet to exploit its tourism potential.
Although the number of tourists who visit Hawassa is on the rise, there are problems in administering the hotels and lodges, according to officials of the Town’s Tourism, Parks and Hotels Development Bureau.
Hawassa is the hub of the region where both domestic and foreign tourists mostly first go to when they visit different parts of SNNPRS. Nevertheless, the absence of a standard lodge and hotel service provider has been the major reason for the shorter stay tourists mostly have in the town, according to Yonathan Berhane, a businessperson who has worked in the tour operating industry for more than 15 years now.
Some of the tourist attractions in the town, especially in the western part of Lake Hawassa, include the art gallery owned by Ethiopia’s highly accomplished artist, Afework Tekle, the serenely attractive Amora Gorge Park, Tabor Mountain, a guest house built for Princess Tenagneworq, Emperor Haileselasie’s daughter, now partially under water as the level of the Lake has rose 32 years ago, as well as Gudumale – a spot where the Sidama people celebrate their traditional new year.
Until 2005, Hawassa had a limited number of hotels. However, following the introduction by the regional government of incentive packages, including reduction in lease price and duty free privileges on imports of goods for investment purposes, and other moves, the construction of hotels and lodges has been booming over the past four to five years, according to an expert on parks and hotels with the Regional Tourism, Parks and Hotels Development Agency.
For example, of the 83.75hct industrial zone Hawassa has, 12hct is designated for the construction of star hotels, real estate development and other social service facilities. The initial lease price of land in the town is 0.80 Br per square metre; it is the highest among the towns in the region.
In addition to Lewi’s latest venture, the acclaimed athlete, Haile Gebresellassie, is also building a five-star hopeful in Hawassa. The town has 16 star hotels currently operational; two of them four-star, one three-star, seven two-star and six one star, with a combined capacity of 300 beds. Along with the star facilities, there are about 30 hotels with average size bedrooms with showers, 15 pensions and 40 café and restaurants, according to data from the Tourism, Parks and Hotels Development Agency.
After the town’s administration introduced a uniform policy on its tourism and social services investment last Ethiopian fiscal year, about 66,768 local and foreign tourists visited Hawassa and over 5.5 million Br revenue was collected from visitors.
Over the last nine months, 270,326 tourists visited the region and Hawassa has, as a centre, taken a significant share of the revenue generated.
Owners of The Lewi’s Plc seem to have identified a lucrative market that they keep working to cater for.
Construction of the first phase of their latest hotel is scheduled to be finalized, and subsequently to be inaugurated, in July 2009, according to the management of the hotel. Since April 2007, the construction of the hotel, financed by a loan obtained from the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), has created job opportunities for about 800 people on a contract basis; the completion of the hotel will provide 230 more people with permanent employment.
The Lewi’s Plc was first started by Wendyefraw in 1992 as a small café in down town Hawassa, otherwise called Piassa, with an initial capital of 80,000 Br, and eight employees. Over the past more than 16 years, the company has grown into prominence in the town, as well as in the region, with its three hotels being among those providing international standard facilities in the region. Constructed at a cost of 45 million Br, the Lewi Piassa Branch housed in a four-storey building is one of the few four-star hotels in the town.
Though the new branch of this chain of hotels – expected to be the top most of those within the chain – is five kilometres from the centre of Hawassa, its management seems to have prepared well in advance: they have already brought vehicles for 24 hours transportation of customers from downtown Hawassa and motorboats for those who prefer to get to the hotel by crossing the lake.
The 40 million Br worth second phase construction of the hotel will include 40 additional rooms, a concert hall, a mini galloping field, a golf course and a tennis court. This will increase the total number of bedrooms the hotel will have from 113 to 153.
There are about 86 rooms, each 60Sqm in size, which Wendyefraw said will be furnished in accordance with international standards as part of the first phase construction. A good view of Lake Hawassa can be seen from these rooms as the G+2 building that houses them faces the lake.
The hotel’s bar and restaurant will have the combined capacity to accommodate 350 individuals. Outside the building lies a mini bar with a capacity to accommodate 150 guests, and there are two swimming pools for children and adults.
The construction of four different event halls – whose seat capacity range from 400 to 2,100 and altogether can accommodate 5,500 people – is also ongoing.
With this latest development included, the chain of hotels will have two libraries, five supermarkets, four shops, four travel and tour shops, and four shops for banking and other financial services, according to Bezuneh Gebre, manager of the already operational Piassa Branch of The Lewi’s Hotel.
Since 2003/04, like The Lewi’s, new hotels in the town, including Tadesse Enjoryee, Pina, Paradise, South Spring, and Gebre Kristos have opened.
The Wabi Shebelle I Hotel, as it is called now, was the first hotel constructed in Hawassa as Oasis Hotel, a modern establishment constructed by Hans Pauly, a German businessperson.
In 1970, the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia took it over as it had been used as collateral for a loan the owner took from the bank; CBE administered it for 13 years until the Ethiopian Tourism and Hotel Commission bought it and then renamed it.
Hawassa town has a total population of 308,000. It has won trophies consecutively in 2007/08 and 2008/09, which the Ministry of Works and Urban Development awarded for the best city for tourism, investment and residence.
- By ABINET ASEFA | Addis Fortune
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