"ONOMO is good for you."
That's the motto of a hotel chain's that's a little different to the others normally towering over city skylines in South Africa. ONOMO Hotels is a wholly African brand, owned by Africans and only operating on the African continent.
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They have built their brand on three core pillars - smile, connect and culture - sourcing locally as much as possible, even personnel and heads of hotels. In Rwanda, for example, they're one of the only hotels where all their department heads are Rwandan.
But they're not exactly new kids on the block - this year they are celebrating a decade of African hospitality, started in the Senegalese city of Dakar in West Africa. Since then, from Casablanca to Cape Town, they have expanded throughout West and Central Africa, and are now turning their attention to Southern and Eastern Africa.
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ONOMO CEO Cedric Guilleminot and COO Souleymane Khol. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
They want to connect the dots across the continent and become a stalwart African brand - but this doesn't come without challenges. Civil war, unrest and safety have had an impact, but they grew through all these risks and realities by being prepared for these developmental challenges, according to CEO Cedric Guilleminot.
"We don't flip properties - we are here to build hotels and teams."
In South Africa, they already have five properties - three in Cape Town, one in Durban and one in Johannesburg, with new hotels opening in Mozambique's Maputo and Tanzania's Dar Es Salaam by the end of the year. At the end of 2019 they will have a total of 21 hotels across Africa, and aim to have 33 hotels by the end of 2022.
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The lobby of Signature Lux Foreshore by ONOMO. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
Seeing Cape Town through their eyes
In the Mother City their hotels are in Foreshore, Waterfront and Greenmarket Square - all different but still retaining a unified brand underneath the pink zebra stripes and birds of the jungle. While Foreshore is focused on business travellers, the other two are in prime tourist locations.
Right on the edge of Battery Park, Signature Lux Waterfront offers amazing value for the price, and ONOMO's Inn at the Square is located in one of Cape Town's oldest buildings which will be undergoing a facelift in March 2020.
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The basketball court in Battery Park. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
While the hotels are 3-star, the rooms have a five-star feel at Signature Lux Foreshore - what's missing though is a bar fridge and the usual toiletries, but you don't miss it, especially seeing as it's reducing plastic waste. Purified water also comes straight out of the tap for drinking, taking another hit against plastic bottles.
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The view of the old Gothic church from ONOMO Inn at the Square hotel. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
The future of hospitality is also already on board at an ONOMO Hotel. They offer self-check-in, including using your phone as a keycard for guests arriving late in the night. On their TVs, besides your usual perusal of channels, you'll also be able to check flight schedules, MyCiti bus schedules or even the weather. They also have an app that lets you manage your stay, including ordering hotel toiletries if you've forgotten yours.
And when it comes to food, local South African flavour dominates the menus, and even if you're not a guest a stop at one of their hotel restaurants is a must.
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Dessert from the Inn at the Square. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
ONOMO might not have the same recognition yet as other big-name brands, but the next time you're travelling to our neighbours, look them up for an affordable and truly modern African stay.
The lobby of Signature Lux Foreshore. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
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