Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – It is not a secret that Addis Ababa is increasingly becoming a tourist destination as well as a hub for foreigners working for NGOs and international conferences that are increasingly being held in the city. Hotels are a traditional way of accommodating visitors, however guesthouses are rising in popularity.
Guesthouses, which are often times homes converted into bed and breakfasts’, are smaller in size and usually are equipped with accommodations including internet, free breakfast, and kitchens for cooking. Found in virtually every neighborhood of the city, guesthouses are continuing to open and show no sign of slowing down in business.
Molla Guest House, located in Bole Medhanialem above Munch Bakery and Café, has been operating for over a year. The small reception area is situated with white tile floors, orange and black leather seats, a television screen, and a reception desk built with brick stone.
There are several staff members talking to two women who just came in asking to reserve rooms for a bridal party. Offered a tour of unoccupied rooms, a female staff member leads them up the staircase to reveal the family suite.
The guesthouse reads like a luxurious home in the city. Boasting several floors, Molla Guest House offers 14 rooms. The family suite opens to reveal a wide family room stocked with a flat screen T.V., wood floors, and a dining table for four. Leading past a fully equipped kitchen is the master bedroom and bathroom, with steam included. The second bedroom is also coupled with a tiled colorful bathroom and is ideal for a large group.
Maru Ketema, an employee at Molla, says that typically visitors who choose staying at guesthouses versus hotels or pensions usually stay for longer periods of times (average is around 2 weeks). The majority of guests they see at Molla are indeed foreigners who come to Addis for business or conferences, with some guests staying on and off at the guesthouse for up to a year.
While hotels come with restaurants, bars, or pools on the property, guest houses such as Molla offer kitchens for cooking, ideal for saving money and avoiding long waits. Also, as such places in hotels’ are public venues, some visitors miss out on needed privacy. Thus, guesthouses are an alternative for long-term visitors who are looking for a homey, quiet accommodation, says Maru.
The prices for a guesthouse like Molla around Bole ranges according to season and time of a year (a major international conference can increase prices), thus many guesthouses do not have fixed rates.
Nikoli, a long-distance running coach originally from Croatia, has been living in Addis on and off for the past four years. Three out of four of those years, Nikoli was living in various guesthouses in Gerj and Haya Hulet.
He opted to stay in guesthouses after finding difficulty finding the right home. “I enjoyed living in a guest house due to how clean it is, everyday someone comes to clean you room, your clothes are washed for you. Also I felt safe.” However due to inflation, rates have gone up and Nikoli is now renting a home. Still, Nikoli says that he would recommend staying in a guesthouse to anyone.
Mam Guest House, located not too far from Molla, has been operating for almost a year. In contrast to Molla, Mam is most obviously a residence that has been converted into a bed and breakfast. The home is located in a quiet neighborhood by Bole Medhanialem Church, and stands at the end of a long road.
Painted lime green both in its exterior and interior, the house is an impressive 3 stories offering 8 bedrooms. Aside from neighboring construction, the yard is quiet and upon entering is greeted with a reception area with a couch and desk.
Providing security and privacy for guests, Mam Guest House also offers complimentary breakfast every morning and delivers food from local restaurants. A traditional buna ceremony is done every Sunday and whenever a guest checks out.
Every season brings different types of customers. Meetings and conferences bring in foreigners from the continent and the Middle East, where as ‘wedding season’ brings in bridal parties from the city. The atmosphere is positive and guests are made to feel like home, says staff.
In contrast to the new wave of guesthouses that are springing up by the dozen around the city, some visitors opt for more traditional hotels to accommodate their stay. Radisson Blu, one of the newest hotels in the city, is a 5 star business hotel. Located in Kazanchis, Radisson has been operating for almost four months and has received rave reviews for its aesthetic and service.
After a security check, one enters Radisson Blu’s wide lobby. To the left is a café with coffee provided by famed Tomoca, and on the right is the entrance to the hotel’s French themed restaurant. Following the lobby are glass walls revealing a terrace and colorful wicker sofas and chairs. The atmosphere is static with hoards of businessmen in sharp suits.
Unlike the quiet and demure atmospheres of guesthouses, a hotel like Radisson Blu is busy with people dining, having a drink at the Signature Bar, and attending conferences at one of the 9 meeting rooms. A business center is provided for guests, where one can work on computers, send faxes, and make copies.
Other unique accommodations offered at the hotel include express laundry for guests, a men and women’s hair salon and fitness center, and an interactive television (found in every room). Radisson’s niche market is for businessmen and women, as most tourists don’t choose 5 star accommodations.
Although many business clients were limited to choosing either the Sheraton or Hilton for 5 star treatment, Radisson has opened up as the third in the country. Furthermore, staff says that the hotel is careful not to overbook, as customers are paying for the human factor in the service they receive.
Staff are happy to report that the hotel has received positive feedback from customers, especially from people who have never traveled to the Third World. Also while the restaurant, bar, café and terrace are open to the public, the rest of the hotel is accommodated only to guests. Furthermore, glass windows are sealed to be soundproof, so despite the busy location customers can have a tranquil experience.
As most tourists coming to Addis on pleasure do not opt for luxurious accommodations, many choose less expensive hotels through word of mouth or researching online. Zewdachew Mesheshe, who is visiting Addis with his family from the U.K., was extremely disappointed with their first hotel experience.
Although they choose their hotel, located by Greek School, by hearing positive reviews from family members, they were surprised to see that the rooms were outdated. Furthermore, it was the attitude of the workers that convinced the family to move to a guesthouse in Piazza. “The staff did not seem happy to help us when we told them of our complaints,” says Zewdachew.
Similarly businessman Tom (name has been changed) was surprised to see such issues. Originally from New Zealand, Tom lives in Tigray and comes often to the city on business. He stayed at the Hilton because of its prestigious rating, but was surprised to see that the rooms have not been renovated (especially with its high prices).
Since his disappointing stay at the Hilton, Tom has become a regular at Harmony Hotel. Located in Bole Medhanialem behind Edna Mall, Harmony hotel was opened in 2008 and is a four star hotel, offering broadband internet, a restaurant, and bar. Tom says that he has had a pretty good experience, citing the location and restaurants nearby as a plus.
However, it is the service that keeps Tom coming back, saying staff members even remember his name when he returns to Addis. The complaints Tom has in general about staying in Addis is that whenever there is a conference, it can be nearly impossible to find a room. Also, constant construction work is distracting and makes walking difficult to and from the hotel.
Overall if you are traveling to Addis or expecting visitors anytime soon, there are increasing options of accommodations. While guesthouses can offer an intimate, homey stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city, sleek and modern hotels offer international cuisine and socializing spaces.
Regardless of where you find yourself staying in Addis, it is important to look for a place that embody that type of traveling experience you are looking to have.
Source: Ethiopian Reporter