A native of Hertfordshire, UK, Barrie Gotch, a journey through one of the last intimate, secluded, beautiful wild forest in Uganda help him understand the extent to which each safari lodge in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest had its own unique concepts. Barrie helped fill the gap in the market with a lodge that offered true luxury and was totally focused on service looks and blends in amazingly with the surrounding. Uganda Speaks caught up with Barrie to talk about his lodge’s success and what it means to him to do business in Uganda.
Tell us about Mahogany Springs
Barrie Gotch first travelled to Uganda around 6 years ago with his father Len Gotch after being invited by Lets Go Travel to see the country and promote it in the UK. Whilst in Bwindi Barrie fell in love with the area and its sheer beauty. After visiting all the other lodges and realizing that each one had its own unique concepts Barrie felt there was gap in the market for a lodge that offered true luxury and was totally focused on service. Barrie wanted to create a lodge that would be considered 5 star and combine the nature of Uganda with the comforts of today.
Amos Wekesa of Great Lakes offered Barrie advice on business in Uganda and put him in touch with Allan Jamani owner of a large construction company in Kampala. Allan shared the same visions as Barrie and together they created Mahogany Springs.
Mahogany Springs on first impressions looks very African and blends in amazingly with the surrounding environment but on further inspection you will find a lodge which is intricately designed in all places and focused on high levels of comfort. The lodge is run by an impeccable management team, General Manager -Jotham Awiti from Kenya who has worked in top lodges and Assistant Manager and Head chef – MahadevSubedi who has worked and cooked in a number of lodges for over 15 years as well as trained chefs for other lodges. The team ensures that service levels are nothing short of 5 star and everything is focused on the clients having the best time of their life.
What do you offer that sets you apart from other accommodation places?
We believe a number of aspects set us apart from some other lodges.
- We realise the importance of good food. With that in mind we offer an a la carte menu with a great selection to cater for all tastes. Subedi’s food is constantly receiving great comments on trip advisor.
- We believe the design of the rooms set us apart, they are spacious, air tight, warm and finished to a 5 star level of comfort.
- We are the ONLY lodge that has 24 hour hydro power. This means we are environmentally friendly and have 24 hour power at the lodge.
- We grow a lot of our own produce on site – we have a huge flourishing vegetable and fruit garden around the lodge, clients love to walk around and try the food or select their dinner. We were told we couldn’t grow pumpkins – we have. We were told we couldn’t grow apples – we have 15 apple trees, we were told we could grow oranges – we have 10 orange trees and much much more.
- We have WIFI internet at the lodge.
- We have a massage facility at the lodge
- We offer tree planting as activity to offset carbon, clients really enjoy taking part in this.
- We can host disabled clients and some rooms have been designed with this in mind.
- I could go on and on mentioning all the extras we do to ensure our clients remember their stay with us.
We heard your lodge was awarded Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor. How do you feel about this accolade? Any other awards you have won?
We were very proud to win this award. We set ourselves the target of reaching the top 5 on trip advisor within a year but to hit the number one spot after just one year is a true reflection of our commitment to provide the highest levels of service and comfort to all clients.
We were also named as a Pearl of Uganda leader for sustainability where they picked 5 accommodation’s in Uganda.
We felt the review we received from the Independent newspaper in the UK after visiting the lodge was as good as an award as they travel the world and are extremely critical of properties; they were very complimentary and gave us 4 out of 5 stars.
I have also received a letter from the Royal family in the UK calling Mahogany Springs a wonderful project that has benefited the community in so many ways.
When did you start operating?
Full Operation began May 01st 2011.
I have never seen a country so green, so beautiful that it feels like you are back to when the world began. It is such a massive contrast to the UK and I fell in love with the country. The people are welcoming, friendly and open to foreigners. I also believed that a project like Mahogany Springs could do a lot to benefit the local community and improve Uganda Tourism.
What’s your view on the Ugandan market in regards to your business?
I believe the Ugandan market is constantly growing both within Uganda and from abroad. It is very exciting and great to see.
Do you work hand in hand with tour operators in your field?
There have been a number of Tour Operators in Uganda that have supported us and really helped get Mahogany Springs off the ground. The support they have provided is hugely appreciated and will never be forgotten.
On top of this Lets Go Travel in Kampala who originally invited me to Uganda have played a very supportive and active role in getting the lodge off the ground, they take bookings for us and provide constant support.
What is your target clientele?
Our target markets are high end clients, and middle end clients who want value for money. We are targeting the global markets and spreading the word about Uganda.
What’s your view on Uganda’s Tourism Industry? What, do you think, the government can do to improve the industry?
My view is that Uganda’s tourism industry is growing and will continue to do so, I think it is a very exciting time to be part of Uganda’s tourism industry. The best way the government can improve the industry would be to spend money abroad on country campaigns that promote Uganda. It is rare here in the UK to see good press about Uganda; other countries like Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana, and Ethiopia spend a lot of money promoting tourism here.
Where do you see Mahogany Springs in five years from now?
Our aim is to maintain our current service levels and improve constantly on what we offer and the facilities available to our clients. A lot of hotels around the world are renowned for starting strong but then dropping their budgets and letting their standards slip we are aware of this and will strive not to let this happen. The only way is up.
What’s your philosophy on life?
I am 30 years old now and at the age of 20 I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and given a 30% chance of survival. I survived and this changed my whole outlook on life. I have many philosophies but the one that saw me through this project and keeps me going is ‘just go for it, don’t get stressed as you have nothing to lose… What’s the worst that can happen? See it through to the end and benefit as many people around you as possible as it can all be over tomorrow.’
Rooms at Mahogany Springs Lodge +256 (0)7818 44354 or +44 (0)20 8736 0713) cost from US$290 per night including all meals and taxes. For information on Mahogany Springs, visit www.mahoganysprings.com