In a business perspective, very few people have the courage to invest in hotel field. Ask those that are privy with the sector, they will eventually turn the knot and say; the vocation is as hard to run as a nut business.
However, such perception doesn’t exist when it comes to Zebra Hotel. The hotel is located in Masaka City along Baine Terrace road, Kizungu and its owned by businessman Benon Mugarura.
The facility is a few meters away from the State Lodge and the cleanliness, serene environment and flowers are what meet the eyes here. Reserving African culture in the is also a key here as a well as promoting traditional African clothing; jewelries, and bitengi.
Mugarura, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Zebra Hotel holds a masters degree in Business administration, a bachelors degree and a diploma in civil engineering which he attained from Makerere University.
After studying, he started imagining a clear possibility of success in his mission to be self-employed which to-date has worked miracles for him. Conversely to business, he deals in: hotel management, road construction, and farming and bakery business.
In general, he’s a merchant, and a risk taker which gives him a true identity of an entrepreneur in Masaka. And today, he has no reason to worry about the present or think much about future.
“Like any business, having a hotel is good. When you’re self-employed, you’re a boss of yourself and it’s more profitable than being employed to be a salary earner,” Mugarura said proudly.
“Owning a business is much better than earning a salary,” he assuredly opens up in an exhilarated tone.
Bizarre as it sounds, the hotel started from a family house which was once a state apartment but later Mugarura bought it in installments at Shs48m in 1990.
He opted to modifying his house in 2001 on an acre piece of land into a modern day Hotel Zebra.
Initially, it was a fairly built up house with only three bedrooms, a sitting room and the garage where he and the wife used live as they hustle to make ends meet.
The sitting room turned out to be a restaurant and the garage into a bar, and the bedrooms turned out as lodging rooms. Each room would be charged shs.50,000 and started out with only five workers who could help provide services: foods, and beverages.
Afterwards, they were overwhelmed by customers and in order to match up the demand he used his savings, including selling of his cows at the farm in Lyantonde, and his thought of developing it rejuvenated. It became a 24 bedroomed lodging house in 2004; he was able to charge from shs.50,000, 100,000 up to 500,000 currently.
“The daily customers back then were my friends from the Engineering sector and the government, workmates and people from Masaka,” he says.
Masaka, as an area had begun to attract a number of immigrants; especially whites, he says. Not even the rentals in the area would help satisfy the increasing population.
When the demand persisted still, with many people asking for conference facilities, he bought three more acres of land and today, the hotel expanded to 134 bedrooms, with a well-equipped health club and 3 huge conference rooms accommodating over 500 people.
On average, he receives over 50 guests each day. These utilize different services at the hotel. The local population prefers the mainly the health club, where they carry out physical exercises in gym, and sauna bath at Shs7000 and 10000 respectively.
Mugarura states that services such as a restaurant offers both local and international delicious foods, as well as buffet every day , a fully-stocked bar with a variety of drinks, and open parking for those with cars. Others; DStv, free internet, lovely gardens for those who prefer an open-air atmosphere especially on valentine’s day and wedding ceremonies also makes the place outstanding.
The prices of food; Shs20000 to Shs35,000 and according to him the hotel is affordable to all the clients. Many at times, people spend their evenings, and other special days, at the hotel to enjoy a delicious ice cream.
“Managing the hotel is one of those jobs I relish most. Even our clients here motivate us to raise standards and provide them with what they want.
“Hotel business needs commitment and first-class customer care. We receive a number of people here, but if we had no decent care, customers would have shunned the place. So, we aim to serve everyone like a king. My passion is to create as many jobs as I can here, and promoting tourism from within and outside,” he emphasized.
It’s during peak seasons; especially in February and December where the hotel receives a number of clients, especially from Europe although it operates slightly on about 50% every day.
Away from that, the hotel offers free seasonal training to scholars and over 1000 students majoring in catering have attained hands-on training.
Currently, they have been helping students in institutions such as; Makerere University Business School, Mutesa 1 Royal University and other surrounding institutes.
One of the long-time Hotel Zebra client Marianna Jensen, 94-years-old, an environmentalist and also a foreigner from Copenhagen-Denmark says, for the last five years, the hotel charges have been reasonably priced and the services delivered are also of a first-class.
“I usually spend a good time with the children I take care of and my friend Lone Wolf. The hotel is ever clean, with ample space where we enjoy the sunshine, and they offer delicious foods,” Marianna, said.
However, Mugarura, also the Chairman China-Africa Friendship Association Uganda (CAFAU) founded in 2012 to promote business, and trade between Africans and Chinese, says, he is also mandated to ensure that there’s an increase in balance of trade between China and Uganda as well as technological and scientific transfer from China to Uganda and cultural exchanges to contribute to Uganda’s development.
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