Business / Industries

Finding the right recipe for success

By Li Lianxing in Nairobi, Kenya (China Daily) Updated: 2014-11-03 13:50

Chinese hospitality companies have the opportunity to add their own touch to tourism in Africa, and can serve as information focal points to help advance China-Africa relations, an official with a Chinese-owned hotel in Nairobi says.

Zhang Shuang, deputy manager of Soluxe International Group of Hotel & Lodge (Kenya) Ltd, says the company has used its experience in Africa and resources in China to find the right blend of local and Chinese elements in its hotels and restaurants. Soluxe has 72 hotels in China.

Finding the right recipe for success
Alibaba pays $459m for stake in Chinese hotel tech company
Finding the right recipe for success
FDI in Africa to expand into agriculture and manufacture

The market in Kenya, well-known for its tourism, can be demanding, and hospitality is a key sector of the economy. It has many high-quality local hotels and international chain hotels, which heavily feature Kenyan themes and tastes.

"Many of the major hotels are run by Indian or European businesses, and they have quite localized operations. Tourists and guests love them," Zhang says. "So we need to contribute a special touch to the local hotel industry."

Soluxe Club is the company's hotel in northwestern Nairobi. It opened in 2012 and has a three-story main building with 45 guest rooms, a restaurant and a multifunctional conference room.

When the hotel was completed in July 2012, Zhang says he was not fully satisfied. The decor and layout needed adjusting to bring out the Kenyan and Chinese features.

"Although we had a monthly average occupancy rate of 50 percent, and in the peak season between June and October it was impossible to get even one room without a reservation, we still saw the need to give guests the feeling of an exotic environment, rather than just another Chinese hotel in Africa."

Soluxe debuted in Africa in 2002, first in Sudan. Now it is present in more than seven countries in the continent.

The company belongs to China Huayou Group Corp, which is a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corp.

CNPC operates not only oil fields overseas, but also has other businesses such as infrastructure construction and trade. So Soluxe in the very beginning served as the company's logistics unit to provide accommodation and catering for many projects, even in remote desert areas.

"I was assigned to go to Sudan, because the company had an operation there," Zhang says.

But then company CEO Zhang Yaquan saw Soluxe had a great opportunity to promote Chinese cuisine and tourism through its overseas operations, and needed to broaden its business scope.

"There are so many variations of Chinese food around the globe, and we realized how diverse African foods could be. But we still try to create a special menu for our chain hotels to provide our guests the best and most original Chinese food while making some adjustments to satisfy local tasks."

Lin Bo, head chef of the hotel, says the hotel is trying to standardize the best recipes to provide authentic flavors to local guests.

More importantly, when introducing a cuisine in a new place, flavor localization is a must. Soluxe strives to deliver culinary delights that can adapt and evolve, he says.

"Kenya is a good place for food fusion because it has the best local dishes while embracing some of the best Western foods as well, due to its historical bond with Europe."

"So we have many chances to prepare creative dishes. For instance, local guests like deep fried food, sometimes even with some fresh fruit, so we combine them to make a very nice deep fried shrimp ball with our special fruit sauce."

Hot Topics

Editor's Picks